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Cyber risks for those with heads in the cloud

22 May, 2013

Australian computer users and businesses are being warned to consider more closely the risks associated with cloud computing, as well as its many advantages.

Speaking during National Cyber Security Awareness Week, technology law expert Nigel Wilson from the University of Adelaide's School of Law says while the use of cloud computing is rapidly growing, many still do not understand the potential problems associated with it, and the legal pitfalls.

Cloud computing is where users store their data on remote servers, through private or public cloud servers or a combination of both. There are many advantages to personal and business users of cloud computing, such as not needing to upgrade data storage capacity, thereby saving on costs.

"Cloud computing is an important technology and has been rapidly adopted by major corporations, governments and others right around the world, and for good reason. But like all technologies of this nature you need to be careful when using them," Wilson, who is Co-Director of the Technology Regulation and Information Policy Research Group at the University of Adelaide Law School, said.

"Security of data and protection of identity are major issues. Web and computer-based technologies, such as cloud computing, have an ever-present risk of hacking, data corruption or loss.

"When data is stored 'in the cloud', often on remote servers located outside Australia, complex issues can arise from a forensic and legal point of view."

Wilson said those using cloud computing should also understand whether or not the main service provider is subcontracting out some of its services.

"If legal agreements are in place, they will be between the user and the main service provider. But if subcontractors are involved, it's important to know who are they, where they are located, and what services they're providing to the cloud service provider," Wilson said.

This is an important issue from a legal point of view because the user's agreement is not with those subcontractors.

"Because the location of external service providers, their servers and their subcontractors can be across different countries, this creates difficulties across legal jurisdictions," Wilson said.

"You need to be very careful when stepping outside of your jurisdiction because legal processes and protections may be completely different."

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sylvia | Thursday, May 30, 2013, 3:54 PM
Using the "cloud" is effectively relinquishing all control over your data. The cloud servers could be located in China, Russia, India, anywhere, the user is not privy to the server locations for "security"reasons. Also, what about sanctions? Can we legally store data such as certain software that is sanctioned by USA not to be deployed in certain countries. BE VERY CAREFUL of what you put on the foreign servers, you have no idea where they are or who has access to your data. The Australian Government wants to use more cloud storage for convenience, how convenient will it be for Australia when foreign invaders can access details of every building, every company and every individual without leaving their desks. Each bit of data placed on the cloud is another piece in the overall jigsaw for foreign invaders.
Bruce | Friday, May 31, 2013, 5:00 PM
Absolutely right Sylvia, I do not want the Government writing all the data it holds om my business all across the sky for anyone to read.