A Pitfall of Using the Cloud
I have spoken before about my fear that innocent bystanders public cloud services and data may be put offline or even compromised simply by being unlucky enough to be placed on the same (or even adjacent?) server as that used by someone of interest to the FBI.
Oh dear - looks like that fear is coming true. Part of the allure of the public cloud is that is can sometimes be cheaper than hosting data in-house, and that is achieved by placing many customers data and services on the same physical machine. Thus, your data may be just a few bytes away on disk from any other data - financial accounts, customer lists or pornography. And if the Feds come looking for that data, they will likely just take suspected servers. In that case, if your data or service is hosted on a machine of interest, it becomes unavailable to you or your customers.
The New York Times has now reported that the FBI had just confiscated three racks of servers along with all equipment plugged into them from a data center in Reston, Virginia (leased by a web hoster in Switzerland called DigitalOne). Three racks!
This swoop was to try to get closer to the people behind Lulz Security, so many would say that what the FBI were doing was a good thing, but the rights or wrongs of the case do not alter the fact that many innocent bystanders in this will have had their services and data abruptly terminated, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One of the bystanders affected by this was DigitalOne and their CEO, Sergej Ostroumow was quoted as saying that the "FBI was interesting only in one of the clients and it is absolutely unintelligible why they took servers of tens of clients. After FBI's unprofessional ‘work' we can not restart our own servers, that's why our web site is offline and support doesn't work."
Another reason to give people pause for thought. Public cloud is useful - sometimes even essential - but use with caution.
Image credit: Simon Howden