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Amazon Cloud Might Be a Hacker Magnet

Arunava De
June 2, 2011

It looks as though the (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Elastic Compute Cloud has become something close to a hacker magnet. At least that's what a recent Bloomberg report claims.

If that's true, then Amazon has just given some of its bigshot clients a reason to be very worried. While there are fears of losing customers to the competition amidst concerns for security, increasing security might also escalate costs. Amazon appears to be facing quite the dilemma in its cloud-computing segment.

Deep in the Amazon
Last month, Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) shut down its PlayStation network upon the discovery of a network breach that endangered credit card data. At the time, some media reports claimed that the breach was the handiwork of hackers, carried out using the Amazon EC2 cloud. The hackers signed on to the Amazon Web services portal legitimately, using a fake name, and launched the attack on the Sony network.

Hacker delight
It must have been rather easy for the hackers to have used Amazon's services using fields such as name, email ID, password, phone number, billing address, and credit card information. On registration, new users get an automated call from Amazon to put in a four-digit verification code. After that, the process is essentially complete. This setup, although convenient, probably does not dissuade people with malicious intent from using the EC2 cloud to launch attacks. Worse, there's no current means for detecting the illegal use of servers. Thus, in its efforts to better serve customers, Amazon has become a very serious liability to a lot of companies out there.

Told you so
Almost a year ago, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was demonstrated using the EC2 cloud. At a hacker "conference" called DEFCON, two consultants in a lab setting used email addresses and credit cards and directed attacks at a website, which, as a result of the demonstration, had to be taken off the Internet for a while. For the hackers, the attack cost just $6 and showed how easy it is to break into the cloud.

Security issues
With the issue of cloud security being brought under question, Amazon has a lot to worry about. The Amazon EC2 does not quite have a clean track record. Recently, the Amazon cloud went down, taking several start-ups such as Reddit down with it.

Meanwhile, Sony has started restoring the PlayStation network after alm