Public cloud services can provide useful tools for criminals

Cloud storage might be used to house stolen data virtually undetected

Buying public cloud services passwords as demonstrated this week at the Black Hat D.C. conference is not the only malicious use these computational and storage resources might offer, according to one security expert.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant disses Amazon cloud

Cloud storage might be used to house stolen data virtually undetected, and cloud computing power could be used to mine it, says John Pironti, president of IP Architects, a security consulting firm, and the security track chairman for Interop.

For example, adversaries could use cloud storage capacity as a drop for massive amounts of stolen data that another party could access, download and then purge, leaving no reason to suspect a transfer of stolen data had happened, he says.

Or hackers could gather massive amounts of Internet data about individuals from social networking and job sites as well as blogs, store it in the cloud then mine it using cloud computing power to discover likely answers to password-reset questions. If they can link a person's name with their mother's maiden name or the town they were born in, that can be used to answer authentication questions posed at password reset sites for bank and credit card accounts, Pironti says.

"They could find out what model car you drove in 1994 or your pet's name when you were 12, and sell that information," he says.

The Black Hat briefing focuses on using cloud computing power to crack WPA2 encryption keys and that type of cracking is the most suitable use of that capability, he says.

Until cloud computing came along, only entities as large as countries could amass the computing power needed to effectively crack passwords and codes, Pironti says. Now, with virtually limitless compute power available, anyone with a credit card can launch these criminal activities. "Public cloud has made that level of computing power available to the general public," he says.

Another criminal use of cloud infrastructure is hosting command-and-control servers that direct activities of botnets, Pironti says.

When the servers are discovered and taken down, they can be re-established quickly with servers hired in the networks of competing cloud providers, he says. The command and control servers could be deployed ahead of time in different clouds so if one is discovered the backup is ready to take over. "This could be done with multiple providers to provide high availability for command and control," Pironti says.

Public clouds would not be suitable for launching distributed DoS attacks because even if many virtual servers were set up to attack, the assaults would all be launched from one or a few provider networks and so be relatively easy to shut down, he says. Being distributed is a key factor in making the distributed DoS attacks effective by virtue of there being so many source addresses for the attacking packets that it's difficult to shut them all down.

Flexible cloud services could also be used by criminals to create test labs where they try out new malware against a range of operating systems that they can purchase from public cloud service providers, he says. So with little investment, they could try a new virus against a range of operating systems and applications, get their results and shut down the lab, he says.

Beyond being illegal, such activities likely violate terms of the agreements customers sign in order to get cloud services, Pironti says.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Configuration / maintenanceGartnersecurityhardware systemslegalData Centercloud computinginternetcybercrime

More about Amazon Web ServicesGartnerInteropLAN

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tim Greene

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place