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The Cloud is Falling!!!!!

Filed Under (Cloud, Hacking, Privacy, Security, Technology) by admin on 25-04-2011

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So this week I would like to talk about cloud computing and the mishap last week that led to widespread web outages all because Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) had a networking glitch (haha) that sent their storage servers offline effectively dragging down all of the sites it was hosting (nearly 70 by some estimates) including the New York Times, Foursquare, Propublica, Reddit, Quora, Hootsuite and many more.
Infrastructure to the Cloud…
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an infrastructure guy. The 5 years I spent as CTO at The Money Store was mostly spent upgrading their IT infrastructure to handle expansion from 1 office to over 300. We did this all in-house. On a very slim budget. We were successful because we were persistent and creative. We were responsible with our data and didn’t trust anyone else with it. Hell, we had financial data that would be a literal gold mine for spammers and phishers.
The cloud is the effective opposite of what we were doing. Instead of building infrastructure you would essentially move all necessary services to a hosting provider. All of that proprietary information, the financial data, customer files, everything would be moved somewhere else. Term services, application servers, exchange, everything would be outsourced to the cloud.
Why Do Hackers Love the Cloud?
Hackers view the cloud as an interesting attack surface because they can maximize collateral damage through a simple DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack. Since the whole point behind the cloud is to utilize and maximize the resources of a handful of providers this creates an optimal surface for hackers to carry out a DDOS attack to bring down dozens, hundreds and in some cases thousands of websites. If your site is served from the same cloud server as say Bank of America and someone decides they want to DDOS BofA chances are your site is going to be knocked offline too.
That’s just DDOS. But what about data infiltration. Can you imagine the bevy of information, the personal customer data, the proprietary business processes, vendors and financials that could be swiped. And all in one neat place. It’s too good to be true.
What should I do?
For one, understand the risks involved with the cloud and that you may not even be a target but could suffer the ramifications of someone else who is targeted and that translates into downtime. Now Amazon says the outage they experienced last week was because of a network glitch that somehow caused their storage to go offline creating a domino effect resulting in a mass outage. Hey, you can paint me with the dummy brush if you want to but this sounds an awful lot like someone found a security hole and exploited it.
ContangoIT’s Danny Mizrahi
By the way, I contacted Danny Mizrahi from ContangoIT about this outage asking him how his company was affected by the outage and responded saying that his clients that were using EC2 were setup properly and in multiple zones and weren’t affected. He also gave me a link to another in depth blog post breaking down exactly what happened in the Amazon outage which is some great reading and located HERE. Danny is one of those non-techie PRO-CLOUD sales/marketing guys that truly believes in cloud computing even though most of his clients use traditional infrastructure technology. In any event, Danny has a speaking engagement this Wednesday from 6-8pm for CANTAB NYC titled “Navigating the Cloud”. And while I don’t totally agree that putting all your eggs in the cloud basket is such a great idea, his talk should be a worthwhile event to attend.

Privacy and the age of data harvesting…

Filed Under (Android, Anonymity, Apple, Cloud, Google, Privacy, Security, Smart Device, Software) by admin on 11-02-2011

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About a month and a half ago I went to a really great Christmas party at a friend’s house and a debate broke out.  It’s an annual get together with various foods, plenty of wine and great tech talk.  It was an interesting and eclectic group of party-goers 30 and 40 somethings who work throughout the computer industry in one way or another:   a java developer, two gaming convention entrepreneurs, an IT sales executive and me.

Anyhow, the conversation got started with an oh so subtle comment or dig if you will on how great the android platform is.  Now, everyone knows I am a Mac/Apple Evangelist, how could I let such a fat meatball of a pitch pass me up without a retort?  That just wouldn’t be me.  I seriously started laughing, dug in and went on the offensive.  Now let me be clear in saying, I have no allegiance towards Apple as a company, God knows they have given me fits with the way they treat resellers and mac consultants but, that said, I am a lover of their products.   The fact is Apple’s iPhone is not only superior to everything available but it is only getting better.  The basis of the argument was Android’s integration with Google’s cloud platform which for some reason has them completely convinced Android is the way to go.

The truth is Google Cloud as a platform is such a bad idea for people it isn’t funny.  It is everything that the computer industry SHOULDN’T be about.  Google makes money off data.  Your data.  It collects your data in various ways and then uses your data to make money for itself.  Search is a big one.  Whatever you type in your browser shuffles off to a storage disk somewhere, maybe India, maybe China, probably Russia and most certainly here in the US all picked apart into various shapes, forms, sizes and representations.  I say that because it is replicated, sorted and put to work in a number of different ways, IMMEDIATELY all without your knowledge and all in a completely new form unrecognizable to the original form (see how they get around saying your privacy is secure?)

Now you may say to yourself, ok, what’s the big deal with that?  They find me what I am looking for.  And they give me options.  Not so fast.  You are being labeled, watched, and exploited in a seriously evil manner and you don’t even realize it.  And I am only talking SEARCH here.  Your searches are completely recorded they are pinned to your IP and if that changes more than likely they are pinning it to a machine ID.  And if you are using chrome, forget about it, you are completely being watched and recorded.  They can see what apps you are running, what sites you navigate to, whether you go to Democrat or Republican based web-sites, everything!  And don’t think for a moment they do not use that.  Of course they do.  Open up gmail and see what ads pop up.  They are branding you and marketing to you all the time.

Let’s move over to the cloud shall we.  Can anyone tell me why the cloud, google’s in particular here since I am picking on them, might be a bad idea?  An awful idea?  It’s the data dummy.  That data you put in your own private (hahahaha) google cloud is being torn apart split into keywords and shipped off to millions of different computers where it is put back together (not in its original form, and this is why its legal) and being reused, redistributed and get this, even SOLD.  That’s right.  Your proposals to your customers, your pitches, your business plans, your proprietary processes, procedures and methods all torn apart, reassembled in pieces and reissued.  You are providing a behemoth of a company with their number 1 resource.  Data.  Your private data becomes their freely available data.  And since it is no longer in its original form, ie, your email, your document in one of their cloud apps, etc you have no say where that data is used.  Yikes!

Someone please tell me they find this a little bit insane.   Well, its ok.  People are watching, understanding and revolting.  Privacy is a big deal.  Unfortunately, unless you are getting hurt you might not care to notice but you will, eventually.  It’s a scary thing but people are losing their identities and oogles (like that?) of their personal information every single day.  It is so destructive and out of control there is only 1 known way to combat it.  Get off the grid.

In any event, here is my proclamation, and I am not claiming to be the next great prophet but hear me out on this.  Google is dying.  As much as they try to reinvent themselves, they’re still dying.  WHAT???? Did he just say that?  Yes.  Their is a movement afoot and its in the title of this blog.  Anonymity.  Say it.  Anonymity.  It will be the only way you can repair your life, your credit, and your relationships.  Believe you me, Google is doing you no favors.  Their bread is buttered by your personal data.  Without it, they can not survive.

In the coming days I am going to try to help you figure out how to get off the grid and some interesting tricks you can use to protect your identities online.

All the best…

Mark