Linode Hacked: Thoughts About Cloud Security

Tue 16 April 2013 Category: Security

I bought a Linode VPS for private usage just after the report that Linode had reset all passwords of existing users regarding the Linode management console.

Resetting passwords is not something you do when under a simple attack such as a DDOS attack. Such a measure is only taken if you suspect or have proof of a serious security breach. I should have known.

There are strong rumours that Linode has actually been hacked. Although I signed up for a Linode VPS after the attack, I still checked my creditcard for any suspicious withdrawals.

Linode is as of this writing very silent about the topic, which only fuels my, and every other's suspicion that something bad has happened.

Whatever happened, even it isn't as bad as it seems, such an incident as this should make you evaluate your choices about hosting your apps and data on cloud services.

I don't care that much about rumours that creditcard information may have been compromised. Although in itself quite damning, what I do care is about the security of the data stored in the virtual private servers hosted on their platform.

I like this phase: "There is no cloud, only Other People's Hard Drives".

Everybody uses cloud services, so we all put our data in the hands of some other third party and we just hope that they properly secured their environment.

The cynical truth is that even so, a case can be made that for many companies, data stored in the cloud or on a VPS is a lot safer than within their own company IT environment. But an incident like this may prove otherwise.

And if you believe that data on a VPS is more secure than within your own IT environment, I believe that you have more pressing problems. The thing is that it doesn't tell you anything about the security of those cloud solutions. It only tells you something about the perceived security of your own IT environment.

The cloud infrastructure is just another layer between the metal and your services, and it can thus be attacked. It increases the attack surface. It increases the risk of a compromise. The cloud doesn't make your environment more secure, on the contrary.

So anyway, who performs regular security audits of Linode or (insert your current cloud hosting provider?) and what is the quality of the processes that should assure security at all times?

Questions. Questions.

This incident again shows that you should clearly think about what kind of security your company or customer data warrants. Is outsourcing security of your data acceptable?

Maybe, if security is an important factor, those cheap VPS hosts aren't that cheap after all. You may be better off creating your own private cloud on (rented or owned) dedicated servers and put a little bit more effort in it.

Building your own environment on your own equipment is more expensive than just a simple VPS, but you are much more in control regarding security.