Dropbox made headlines this week when Gawker.com was the first to report that an unnamed hacker broke into Mitt Romney's hotmail account with the same password used for a Dropbox account also associated with the GOP presidential candidate.
That followed on the heels of a decision last month by IBM to rollout a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that bans the use of Dropbox.
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IBM CIO Jeanette Horan initiated the policy because she's concerned that that the SaaS service could lead to the exposure of confidential corporate information, according to MIT's Technology Review magazine. (A survey by IBM of its employees found they were violating company rules by automatically forwarding internal e-mail to public Web mail services and using their smartphones as open Wi-Fi hotspots, opening corporate data to outside purview.)
Whether its Romney's email and Dropbox account or IBM's 400,000 employees, the risks associated with BYOD and cloud storage services highlight a problem IT shops now face: The potential loss of corporate data to an insecure public cloud. And it's not just Droxbox. There's a growing number of online consumer cloud services through which data can leak, including Box.net, Carbonite, Google Drive, Mozy, SugarSync, YouSendIt and Apple's iCloud.
"IBM has the world's BYOD program and they just locked down Evernote and Dropbox because they discovered their future product plans and all sorts of really sensitive data was being beamed automatically out to these services," said Dion Hinchcliffe, executive vice president of strategy at Dachis Group, a consultancy. "So they blocked all access to cloud storage applications."
Hinchcliffe said the use of mobile applications is a huge problem in enterprises, but companies have only begun to address the issue. He suggested that every company have a "bus stop" policy: If an employee wouldn't be comfortable leaving company information at a bus stop, they shouldn't be willing to store it in un unsanctioned public cloud.
While many enterprises now have a BYOD policy, they typically do not address the applications that come with mobile devices.
The concern about using public cloud services revolves around the fact that those service providers are becoming a favorite target of data thieves, just as robbers target banks.
"These cloud data centers are becoming high-value targets," Hinchliffe said. "You have to remember, 90 percent of all data break-ins are caused by someone inside the company with the keys to the castle -- a systems administrator that's being paid to tap a customer list or download customers' credit card information. So there's a lot of temptation in these data centers ... for people who are likely to supplement their incomes and will be tempted to offers.