Critical.
Authoritative.
Strategic.
Subscribe to CIO Magazine »

Prism should make businesses think twice about cloud computing

There is no technical defence against government surveillance

Businesses worldwide need to re-think their use of cloud computing, in light of recent revelations around the PRISM and Tempora surveillance programmes, according to independent privacy advocate Caspar Bowden.

Speaking at a House of Commons debate, chaired by Labour MP Tom Watson, Bowden said that the UK is in an "extremely exposed" position, because of its relationship with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

While PRISM and GCHQ's surveillance programme Tempora focus on consumer-facing cloud services like Facebook, Google and Skype, Bowden believes that there may be other programmes that tap into business cloud services such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

"Why I bang on about cloud computing is because every organisation is now under the cosh to think about migrating their data to the cloud, and overwhelmingly the cloud computing industry is an American industry," said Bowden.

"The reason is cost, because you can do almost any type of processing in the cloud, and the cost is probably at least 50 percent less than what you paid before, so it seems to be not just a no-brainer but something that you get driven by your organisation to do.

"I think what we've learnt in the last three weeks should persuade us to totally re-evaluate that situation."

Bowden added that there is no technical defence against this kind of surveillance, because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows US authorities to extract data in plain text from inside the data centre, where it is decrypted for processing.

"The best bet is to keep your cloud data close, keep it local and don't really let it out to anybody else's jurisdiction because, once you do, secret laws can get at that data from the inside," said Bowden.

Former shadow home secretary and MP David Davis added that the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) needs to be re-written, in order to provide better protection for consumers and businesses.

In particular, he suggested that anyone who sends their data into a cloud outside of European jurisdiction should get a pop-up on their screen, warning them that their data may be subject to foreign surveillance.

"Our supervision procedures in this country are completely useless - they're not just weak but completely useless," said Davis.

"What Tempora has done in political circles is run up a really big red flag saying, actually, we have to think completely from scratch about all of the oversight arrangements we have."

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

More about: Amazon, Facebook, GCHQ, Google, Microsoft, National Security Agency, NSA, Skype
Comments are now closed.
Related Coverage
Related Whitepapers
Latest Stories
Community Comments
Tags: Amazon Web Services, Configuration / maintenance, National Security Agency, security, Microsoft, hardware systems, Data Centre, Facebook, GCHQ, Google, skype
Latest Blog Posts
Whitepapers
  • Information Management
    Valuable data can be a needle in a haystack, but by leveraging the value in existing information assets, organisations can generate real and achievable gains in revenue generation, IT investments and productivity gains. This whitepaper discusses how Information Management (IM) is a multi-faceted discipline that can be employed to meet or exceed your business objectives.
    Learn more »
  • CISO 2013 Security Insights: A new standard for security leaders
    Insights from the 2013 IBM Chief Information Security Officer Assessment which uncovered a set of leading business, technology and measurement practices that help to address the questions CISO's and security leaders have in managing diverse business concerns, creating mobile security policies and in fully integrating business, risk and security metrics.
    Learn more »
  • IDC MarketScape Excerpt: Worldwide Client Virtualization Software Assessment
    The rise of BYOD is creating governance and regulatory nightmares while providing end users with unprecedented flexibility and agility. While IT is still intrigued by the possibility of a better desktop management model and the operational savings client virtualization software could deliver, it is the increased governance and the ability to deliver desktops, applications, and data to any device that are driving today's purchases.
    Learn more »
All whitepapers
rhs_login_lockGet exclusive access to Invitation only events CIO, reports & analysis.
Latest Jobs
Salary Calculator

Supplied by

View the full Peoplebank ICT Salary & Employment Index

Recent comments

Computerworld
ARN
Techworld
CMO