How badly will recent hacking damage trust in the cloud?

Mike Halsey MVP
May 15, 2011
Updated • Dec 11, 2012

It's not been a good few weeks for technology companies with all manner of high-profile hackings being reported, not just on technology websites such as gHacks, but worldwide on the early evening news bulletins. There's no sign things are going to calm down any time soon either with Sony still in the news for tentatively bringing their services back online.

Although the gaming giant has been the largest target of a hacking attack with 100 million people's details stolen, a great many more people have had personal data pilfered from other websites too.

At this point then there are several questions to be asked, primarily of which is will these attacks damage people's trust in cloud services?

It's funny that when you ask people what their perceptions are of the cloud you'll get very different answers. People in business will be most aware of it and thus will probably be most cautious at this stage, especially with companies like Microsoft launching high profile Office collaborations and security products that are entirely cloud-based. If you asked the average man or woman in the street what they thought a cloud service was they might stare back at you blankly.

For most people the Internet is the Internet and while just about everybody on the Internet uses cloud services in one way shape or form, from web-based email to online gaming or social networking, websites are still perceived as separate things to one another. There's no perception of a joined up cloud in people's minds.

This of course is perfectly understandable, up to a point. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Sony, Amazon and their ilk are all completely separate companies with their own distinct product identities. They don't interact with one another, they don't share any login details and infrastructure... or do they?

This is the thing about cloud services, all we see is the interface in our homes and offices, after that they're vapourware, out in the ether somewhere. We've no idea where and how these services are hosted (with a very few notable exceptions such as Facebook's new server farm). For all we know some of these services are hosted by the same companies in massive server farms where, let's not forget, people can get physical access. How do we know how secure these establishments are? Are they in old nuclear bunkers or warehouses in the arctic circle? Could they be in buildings that are relatively open in the American countryside.

There's a lot of trust placed in users of cloud services about the actual physical location of our personal information. But there's even more trust placed in them about the technology they secure this information with.

Here is where it all becomes exceptionally tricky as there are a limited number of actual technologies these services can run upon and that our data can be secured by, if it's even properly secured at all as we saw with Sony.

Here was a company relying, apparently, on the security of its server platform. Whether this server platform was based on a Windows Server, OS X Server, Apache or other platform remains to be seen, but operating systems are vulnerable and nothing can ever be completely secure.

This is made worse by an unwillingness of these companies to disclose the actual technologies they're using. On the face of it this is perfectly understandable because then hackers and criminals could tailor specific attack methods for specific companies. The bigger problem it poses however is that it prevents users from being able to make informed choices about which companies they're entrusting their data to.

For instance, let's assume for sake of argument that company A is hosting its services in an Apache / PHP based system. We don't know how up to date each software component in this system is. If you are running a huge web service then a wholesale upgrade of a particular software component is much more complex than just running the Adobe Acrobat updater on your PC to plug a security hole. It can take months, or even years to be certain that you won't cause problems with the live service and, thus, your all important revenue stream.

This leaves us potentially with huge numbers of companies running web servers with older and unpatched software on them, just to maintain the status-quo. It's a scary thought and a question that almost never gets asked.

Will the recent hacking attacks damage the reputation, and therefore the uptake, of cloud services? The answer is an undoubted yes but not for the reasons you may originally have thought. Cloud service providers will now have to face the challenge of reassuring us that the server farms and software are up to the job. It's this software that's being attacked, after all.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.