Prism should make businesses think twice about cloud computing

There is no technical defence against government surveillance

Businesses worldwide need to re-think their use of cloud computing, in light of recent revelations around the PRISM and Tempora surveillance programmes, according to independent privacy advocate Caspar Bowden.

Speaking at a House of Commons debate, chaired by Labour MP Tom Watson, Bowden said that the UK is in an "extremely exposed" position, because of its relationship with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

While PRISM and GCHQ's surveillance programme Tempora focus on consumer-facing cloud services like Facebook, Google and Skype, Bowden believes that there may be other programmes that tap into business cloud services such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

"Why I bang on about cloud computing is because every organisation is now under the cosh to think about migrating their data to the cloud, and overwhelmingly the cloud computing industry is an American industry," said Bowden.

"The reason is cost, because you can do almost any type of processing in the cloud, and the cost is probably at least 50 percent less than what you paid before, so it seems to be not just a no-brainer but something that you get driven by your organisation to do.

"I think what we've learnt in the last three weeks should persuade us to totally re-evaluate that situation."

Bowden added that there is no technical defence against this kind of surveillance, because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows US authorities to extract data in plain text from inside the data centre, where it is decrypted for processing.

"The best bet is to keep your cloud data close, keep it local and don't really let it out to anybody else's jurisdiction because, once you do, secret laws can get at that data from the inside," said Bowden.

Former shadow home secretary and MP David Davis added that the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) needs to be re-written, in order to provide better protection for consumers and businesses.

In particular, he suggested that anyone who sends their data into a cloud outside of European jurisdiction should get a pop-up on their screen, warning them that their data may be subject to foreign surveillance.

"Our supervision procedures in this country are completely useless - they're not just weak but completely useless," said Davis.

"What Tempora has done in political circles is run up a really big red flag saying, actually, we have to think completely from scratch about all of the oversight arrangements we have."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Amazon Web ServicesConfiguration / maintenanceNational Security AgencyMicrosoftsecurityhardware systemsData CentreGCHQFacebookskypeGoogle

More about Amazon Web ServicesFacebookGCHQGoogleMicrosoftNational Security AgencyNSASkype

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Sophie Curtis

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