By Ben Puzzuoli, Technical Sales Director at KineticD
April 05, 2012

KineticD Online Data Backup Expert Tips: Understanding Potential System Vulnerabilities in IT

When considering whether or not to take advantage of the services of a cloud vendor, businesses often voice their concern over potential security vulnerabilities that could arise from having their data hosted in the cloud. And, of course, since the cloud isn’t one hundred percent immune to security threats, this concern should be considered a valid one. However, it is important to keep in mind that potential security issues abound in almost all of our interactions with computers and the Internet in general. From involvement with social networks to simply sending an email, there are always points at which data can be hijacked, viruses can be spread and havoc can be wreaked from exterior malicious agents intent on stealing or otherwise compromising the security of your data.

Indeed, no matter what level of security measures are employed, the potential to have your data stolen or corrupted on the Internet will, unfortunately, always exist. Hackers will stop at nothing to discover new ways to infiltrate systems and gain unauthorized access to valuable information and thus, at every juncture of communication online, information can potentially be intercepted. But, intercepted and stolen information isn’t the only goal of many hackers, with some malicious agents on the Internet focusing more so on “distributed denial-of-service” (DDoS) attacks, in which networks or websites are flooded with fake external requests to the point that overwhelms system resources, which in turn can render the entire system almost completely unavailable to any of its legitimate users. In addition to the slowing down or stopping of network activity, these attacks can also cause buffer overflows that can end up generating errors on the system as well, leading to further instability. And, one of the biggest advantages of these attacks for hackers is that since they can be launched from more than one agent at a time the perpetrators can often remain anonymous and undetected.

In addition to this, of course, there are many other types of attacks that can be leveraged in an attempt to render useless any website or system that is online. The use of a “hypervisor“, which is a hardware virtualization technique that allows for different operating systems to run on the same platform in order to maximize the efficiency of disk space on networks, can often easily be exploited by hackers if the hypervisor in question is not properly configured. On the other hand, while many hackers specialize in the unlocking of encrypted information by simply learning how the algorithm works, “side channel attacks” are a system hacking, data decrypting method wherein the agent manages to unlock the encrypted information by analyzing other elements involved in the overall system, including the timing of how long data takes to load or to be transferred (called a “timing attack”) and the varying consumption of power that the system utilizes (called a “power monitoring attack”).

Still, more methods abound. A “man in the middle” attack is when a hacker gains access to a network point between parties, often the server and the client machine, in which case they can then send information back and forth pretending to be either party so that it will seem that it is actually being sent from the server or client in question. Frequently, these same agents will also participate in “relay attacks”, in which information or correspondence between the two hacked parties is intercepted, yet still relayed unaltered to the proper recipient, buying the hacker time to work on decrypting information by concealing that there has indeed been a breach of security on the network. Furthermore, “cross-site scripting” allows hackers to inject malicious code directly into websites, and “malware” is a form of malicious software that can either be distributed on its own (disguising, of course, as legitimate software) or take the form of apps, browser extensions and other add-ons.

Collusion attacks”, “intersection attacks”, “Sybil attacks”… the list goes on and on. Let’s be honest: it’s enough to make you want to avoid the Internet all together, let alone take advantage of cloud services! However, if you truly feel that way, you may just be missing the point. The bottom line is that these threats exist regardless of whether or not you take advantage of cloud services; as long as you are online (and, oftentimes, even if you are not) your valuable data is potentially vulnerable to threats of many kinds. That’s why it is so important to make sure that all of your data is protected as much as possible, and there is no better way to make that the case than with online data backup. After all, online backup and cloud storage service providers are data security experts that make it their primary focus to keep you information safe, so who else would you want to trust to help you protect all of your valuable information? Indeed, the Internet can be a dangerous place for data, but by taking advantage of cloud backup you’ll at least have the peace of mind of knowing that you are doing everything possible to keep you data intact and out of the wrong hands.

About the author: Ben Puzzuoli is Technical Sales Director at KineticD, a Toronto based online data backup service provider.

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