Symantec Warns Cloud Computing Security Approaches Need to Catch Up to Adoption

A joint survey from Symantec and the Ponemon Institute paints a less than rosy picture of enterprise approaches to cloud computing. For many, security seems to be on the backburner.

A survey of IT professionals has painted a troubling picture of enterprise approaches to cloud computing security.

According to the survey, which was done by Symantec and the Ponemon Institute, many organizations are not doing their due diligence when it comes to adopting cloud technology-a situation that may partly be due to ad hoc delegation of responsibilities.

Among the findings: Few companies are taking proactive steps to protect sensitive business and customer data when they use cloud services. Less than 10 percent of those surveyed said their organizations performed any kind of product vetting or employee training to make sure cloud computing resources met security requirements before cloud applications were deployed.

In addition, just 30 percent of the 637 respondents said they evaluate cloud vendors prior to deploying their products, and most (65 percent) rely on word-of-mouth to do so. Fifty-three percent rely on assurances from the vendor. However, only 23 percent require proof of security compliance such as with regulation SAS 70.

The researchers speculated this may be due to a gap between the people employees think should be responsible for evaluating cloud vendors and who actually is. For example, 45 percent said responsibility lies with end users, while 23 percent said business managers. Eleven percent said the burden belonged to the corporate IT team, while 9 percent said information security.

However, a total of 69 percent said they would prefer to see the information security (35 percent) or corporate IT teams (34 percent) lead the way in that regard. Most often, security teams are not part of the decision-making process at all when it comes to the cloud. Only 20 percent said their information security teams played a part on a regular basis, and 25 percent said they never do.

"Cloud computing holds a great deal of promise as a tool for providing many essential business services, but our study reveals a disturbing lack of concern for the security of sensitive corporate and personal information as companies rush to join in on the trend," Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said in a statement. "In order to properly address information security concerns we encourage organizations to immediately incorporate policies and processes for determining vendor qualifications. In addition, cloud computing vendors must also be willing to adopt a more transparent posture."

Figures from the Evans Data Cloud Development Survey released earlier in 2010 found that 61 percent of the more than 400 developers said at least part of their organizations' IT resources "will move to the public cloud within the next year."

According to the Symantec-Ponemon study, the most popular uses of the cloud include business applications such as (71 percent) and peer-to-peer applications. With adoption growing, enterprises are still "flying blind" in regard to security, opined Justin Somaini, chief information security officer at Symantec.

"Today, organizations need stronger information governance for managing corporate information and enabling confidence in the cloud," Somaini said in a statement. "The success of cloud computing hinges on the trust and confidence that can only occur when the information security teams have better visibility into the security posture and operations of cloud initiatives."