Google Gets Hacked - The Vulnerabilities of Cloud Computing

Google Gets Hacked – The Vulnerabilities of Cloud Computing

By Steve on January 13, 2010

Google Gets Hacked - The Vulnerabilities of Cloud Computing

Recently, Google admitted to being a victim of a sophisticated hack, obviously Google would be a potential hacking target as they have access to Gmail, analytics, google data centres hold pretty much everything of relevance on the Internet but we all think of Google as being impenetrable. Over the last year many have been moving over to Google and cloud computing as an easy way to store documents but if this is a target for hackers will we change the direction we were all moving in?


What is cloud computing and how was it hacked?

Cloud computing is a process where instead of storing information and documents on your computer, you store them on the internet, this can be great for sharing documents and having access to them for remote work or just to check things on your phone before a meeting! At Falkon Digital we often use Google Docs to project manage work, we assign users to a document and have a list of tasks by which each person working on the project can update the status of the task list at the same time. This is really useful when working remotely.

Basically, cloud computing means as long as you have the internet you can create word or excel etc documents using Google docs, this is free and you don’t need to use Microsoft Office to do it. It autosaves regularly, can be shared and is stored with Google, rather than using up your hard drive space (up to a point). Another benefit is there are no rebooting your computer for updates or security installations.

Before now Google has been untouchable, the out of reach helpful search engine that produces all kinds of lovely things to help webmasters and even your everyday internet user. They encourage you to share more and more information about yourself, customers and habits, and we give that up to use some of their products. Google has such dominance and authority we never think, hang on they’re just a business susceptible to the same threats as us. Sure they have a lot more technical nouse than your common IT guy, but they have a lot more to lose. It may be easier for a hacker to get into a small site on a shared server but the rewards are much less.

I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has tried to hack into Google but it seems this was a more successful hack;

Google tells us that there was a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” on its “corporate infrastructure” that resulted in the theft of “intellectual property.”

Google has often been criticised for the amount of personal data they collect, likened to George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother, so it seems they collect all the data in a system that is obviously going to be a target for hackers!

Cloud Computing makes us vulnerable to such an attack, Google stated on its blog;

This was not an assault on cloud computing. It was an attack on the technology infrastructure of major corporations in sectors as diverse as finance, technology, media, and chemical. The route the attackers used was malicious software used to infect personal computers. Any computer connected to the Internet can fall victim to such attacks. While some intellectual property on our corporate network was compromised, we believe our customer cloud-based data remains secure.

While any company can be subject to such an attack, those who use our cloud services benefit from our data security capabilities. At Google, we invest massive amounts of time and money in security. Nothing is more important to us. Our response to this attack shows that we are dedicated to protecting the businesses and users who have entrusted us with their sensitive email and document information. We are telling you this because we are committed to transparency, accountability, and maintaining your trust.

Methinks Google doth protest too much as this was clearly an attack on cloud computing, by hacking Google’s data system they have access to all emails and docs people may have on the Google server!


What information was stolen from hacked users?

Apparently, only limited data was retrieved by the hackers, something like the subject line, but still is this not a complete breach of privacy, I wouldn’t want someone looking over my shoulder to see the subject line of my emails.

Cloud computing is a great resource to people and this hack has put a dark (excuse the pun) ‘cloud’ over it as a developing resource. I will continue to use it for certain things but will think twice about any sensitive material. It does question Google’s vulnerability in other areas too.

Google has recently banned censorship, putting a question over their longevity in China, this was supposed to be in response to the hacking but has acted as a good (yes you guessed it) smoke cloud, for the real issue that Google got hacked and how we should rethink our usage.

I think perhaps this is a nice shake-up for Google that they are vulnerable and hopefully measures will be put in place to stop it happening again. I still feel more secure having information online and password protected than sitting on my laptop.