February 14, 2013, 8:08 AM — The growth in cloud computing is a double-edged sword, Europe's top cybersecurity agency warned on Thursday.
The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) published a new report on the cloud from the perspective of critical information infrastructure protection, just one week after the European Commission announced its plans for a new Network and Information Security Directive.
Under that proposed new law, ENISA would play a key role in helping the European Union's member states share information about security breaches.
ENISA clearly sees the cloud as the area of most concern, given the concentration of users and data and its use in critical sectors such as finance, health, energy and transportation.
"In a few years, a large majority of organizations will be dependent on cloud computing. Large cloud services will have tens of millions of end-users. What happens if one of these cloud services fails, or gets hacked?" asks the report.
It notes that cloud services are themselves becoming a critical information infrastructure.
ENISA executive director Udo Helmbrecht welcomed plans for mandatory breach reporting in the new directive, particularly for cloud services, and dismissed claims by businesses that this would put an undue burden on them. "Companies are always complaining," he said. But he sees breach reporting as essential in protecting critical cloud-computing services.
The report also calls for better transparency regarding logical and physical dependencies -- which critical operators or services depend on which cloud computing services -- and says that governments should include large cloud services in national risk assessments as well as tracking cloud dependencies.
However, the report did find one silver lining to the cloud growing over the IT industry: Cloud computing can provide "resilience in the face of natural disasters and Distributed Denial of Service attacks," it said.
The agency plans to launch a new working group focusing on CIIP and governmental cloud security in the coming months.