The primary source of resistance cloud service providers have faced in the enterprise community has been the lingering suspicion that systems hosted by a third party and shared with others are at greater risk than those stationed on-site. But in the latest head-to-head comparison undertaken by Alert Logic, it seems that security is less about where servers and data reside and more about the quality of protection plans guarding them.
Cloud comes out on top
In collaboration with 451 Research, Alert Logic analysts studied operational data reported by 1,600 of its business customers utilizing both on-premise and cloud-hosted setups. More than 70,000 individual threats were catalogued across seven distinct categories.
In a potentially surprising revelation, analysts discovered that on-premise IT infrastructure was more likely to be attacked – with greater frequency and variety – than cloud-based infrastructures. Across all seven incident classes, the number of threats reported per impacted customer was higher for the on-premise group.
As InformationWeek columnist Charles Babcock noted, the findings may have been slightly skewed in favor of cloud providers considering that many of Alert Logic's customers are industry leading data center operators with some of the highest security standards and strongest practices. However, these name brand service providers also tend to attract the attention of the most determined cybercriminals.
Although the report findings lend support to the notion that cloud security practices have been consistently maturing in recent months, the threat landscape is presenting common challenges to all IT administrators and managed service providers.
Alert Logic analysts found that approximately half of all companies had been victimized by an application-layer Internet security threat. Perhaps more concerning was the fact that nearly two-thirds of these attacks were launched by freely downloadable crimeware tools.
Report authors also dismissed the notion that any one industry was more or less vulnerable than another, suggesting that most attacks were purely opportunistic and based on the selection of an open target as opposed to specific organization.
"For this reason, it matters less whether an application is on-premise or in the cloud; the more important issue is whether its protection is being properly managed," said Wendy Nather, research director of enterprise security at 451 Research. "Enterprises should take both available security expertise and resources into account when deciding where to host their systems."
Finally, the study confirmed that the maturation of the North American cloud computing market has been both a blessing and a curse. Analysts underscored a clear trend by which Chinese hackers were targeting bandwidth-rich workstations in the United States as a means of facilitating reconnaissance efforts and adding machines to botnets targeting users across Asia.
Cloud Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro