Cloud descends on cybercriminals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 December, 2010, 12:00am

For business centre users wondering how the security of their e-mail systems and antispam software can be taken better care of, the answer seems to be in the clouds.

Cloud Security is one of the new buzzwords in the world of information technology and is considered the next stage in the fight against spammers and cybercriminals whose activities not only clog inboxes, but cost businesses dearly in time wasted, deleted spam and fraud.

A poll of IT managers and executives conducted in Hong Kong by research firm Harris Interactive this year found that nearly one in five were already using cloud security.

More than 65 per cent of the firms surveyed that had not adopted cloud security planned to do so.

Cloud security, or what is becoming known as Software as a Service, is where data protection and network security is handled off the company premises by a host such as a software security provider. Internet security companies, such as Fortinet, Symantec Hosted Services or McAfee, administer spam filtering and protection from their own servers, enabling the client company to save costs and devote IT resources to supporting its core business.

Among the other advantages of hosted services is that it's relatively easy to set up and administer, regardless of where the client is based. Service updates and upgrades, and threat protection are looked after in real-time by the cloud security host with no additional resources from the client.

No longer do IT departments have to watch out for the latest antivirus patches and updates that are sent online by internet security providers. The service requires little input from the client other than the initial set-up configurations. Once set up is completed, data is routed through secure data centres and analysed for malware, viruses and spam before reaching the client's inbox.

Hosted security services are being welcomed by those tasked with looking after company IT systems in Hong Kong, according to Harris Interactive's poll. 'More robust protection delivered by IT security experts' was seen as a key benefit by 65 per cent of Hong Kong respondents. 'Cost optimisation and predictability' was rated the second most popular benefit by 33 per of respondents.

Another reason why firms choose a hosted security provider for their data is legal responsibilities or compliance issues. No longer is physical storage space required and space on the company's own servers is freed. But, in Hong Kong, only 7 per cent of those surveyed felt this was an important issue in choosing cloud security.

As cloud security is still a relatively new service, the debate will continue on questions of privacy and ethics. There is little doubt in the higher level of protection offered in the Software as a Service business model, but issues surrounding access to personal information, the level of e-mail filtering and monitoring of internet usage could be raised.

For now, internet security and building defences for businesses and individuals against excessive spam are the priorities. Monthly reports by Symantec Hosted Services regularly place Hong Kong as one of the most spammed cities in the world because cybercriminals, online fraudsters and chancers see easy pickings.

It's not easy to physically raid and collar these wrongdoers as their dirty work is usually carried out by botnets, Trojan worms and viruses that bombard computer networks daily. Hosted security services are alert to this, and block and create defences practically every time a new virus attack surfaces.