Cloud security to be most disruptive technology of 2012

It's still about the Cloud

The Security for Business Innovation Council, comprised of IT security professionals from 19 companies worldwide, called cloud computing the main disruptive force for 2013. In its report, "Information Security Shake-Up," the group said it was evident many organizations are preparing to move more business processes to the cloud. This year, it will even be "mission-critical apps and regulated data" consigned to the cloud.

The Council, established several years ago to advise RSA, includes security professionals from Coca-Cola, eBay, FedEx, EMC, Fidelity Investments, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart, among several others.

RELATED: Growing confidence in cloud security

"Although supplier lock-in and system availability are some of the big concerns with the cloud, security remains the number one obstacle to adoption," the Council's report says. "But trust in the cloud is growing."

Even regulators are starting to warm up to it, they noted, pointing out that the Dutch banking authority gave Dutch banks the green light to use cloud services late last year. But there are "gaps" in how well companies are planning for any transition to the cloud, the report notes. Though middle managers in companies may favor cloud computing for business reasons, there's a gap in coordination and trust with the IT security managers responsible for regulatory and security controls.

"Middle managers don't want to use their resources on security," the report bluntly says. "They are incentivized by timeline and budget; adding security doesn't fit into their objectives."

Security teams should be striving this year to build relationships with these middle managers, the report emphasizes. The practice of regular meetings and information exchange is an approach that has worked well over the past few years with the top corporate executives to bring their attention to the nature of cyber-threats. These top execs now largely understand and prioritize information security. But getting the same rapport going with middle managers is likely to be an even bigger challenge, the report says.

In addition, cloud computing is forcing internal security teams to look beyond internal controls they manage to find ways to assure controls they need from cloud vendors are in place, and more of the IT budget is going to go that direction as well.

Other predictions about disruptive factors into 2013 center on risks associated with social media. The report suggests the risk is not simply about what corporate employees do at work in terms of social media but "also on their personal time." It's suggested training would help employees grasp any obligations they accept regarding postings related to sensitive company information. Employees also need to be made aware of how social media is exploited by criminals for purposes of spear-phishing aimed at compromising the entire organization.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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