Turning white clouds into black clouds: Cloud-driven hacking is now real

Hackers are getting better at using the scalability of cloud computing to crack into the previously uncrackable

In November, I predicted the following: "With the rise of high-end, on-demand supercomputing, those who need CPU power to break encryptions and hack into major players will learn to use clouds to attack other clouds." Only a few days into 2011, we are seeing this come true. German security researcher Thomas Roth is using cloud computing to crack wireless networks that rely on preshared key passphrases, such as those found in homes and smaller businesses.

The trick to cracking codes such as this is high-end computing power, once out of reach for most. These days, you can rent the cycles you need for mere dollars a day. Roth has created a program that operates on Amazon.com's Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) system, running through 400,000 possible passwords per second -- a feat not economically possible without cloud computing. 

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Roth is proving the potential for cloud computing to support bad actors, as well as legitimate businesses. In essence, he's turning the power of cloud computing on others -- perhaps including other clouds. I suspect more of this is going on than we know, and Roth is to be commended for revealing the danger here.

Sadly, there is little we can do about this problem, other than hold cloud computing providers somewhat responsible for the actions of their customers, as well as check and double-check our own security. Much of these kinds of shenanigans can be caught with simple monitoring, but we can't expect them to catch all of it.

We can expect to see a few more well-publicized cracks using the power of cloud computing. Some we'll read about; most will be handled quietly.

This article, "Turning white clouds into black clouds: Cloud-driven hacking is now real," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business techonology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.