Massive US Voter Data leak, Skype suffers from DDOS Attack and Google Cloud launches in Sydney
This week’s Tech news has seen one big cyber security crisis after another. The first security blunder saw Deep Root Analytics leave the details of around 200 million US voters on an unsecured server, accessible to anyone who found the link. The data included the personal details of citizens such as their names and addresses, as well as their religious affiliations and political views on controversial topics. The shocking discovery made by a cyber analyst at UpGuard, suggests that even electoral data is not immune from the constant cyber security demands on modern organizations.
No less concerning is the news that Skype’s European service was derailed by a DDOS attack earlier this week, suspected to have been orchestrated by a hacker group called ‘CyberTeam’. Following the attack, the group claimed responsibility on Twitter, as users scrambled back online after having been left unable to use the app to communicate via IM or video. The apparent fragility of Skype’s system raises further questions about contemporary approaches to cyber security. Skype is one of the most widely used messenger apps online and one DDOS attack managed to knock their service out of commission. It’s now more important than ever that organizations stay active in protecting their network infrastructure from unscrupulous attackers.
On a more positive note, Google Cloud has finally launched a data center in Sydney, as Australia and New Zealand are given a new native data hub. The data center will enable users to transfer information without being subjected to high amounts of latency. Prior to the data center, users had to send their data to the nearest centers in Singapore and Tokyo. The move comes as part of a development program that seeks to situate Google as a dominant player in the Australasian data scene.
Database with 200 Million US Voter’s Data Left Unsecured
Earlier this week, a database containing the personal details of almost 200 million US voters was found to have been left, unencrypted and openly accessible on an unsecured domain. The data was originally collected for the Republican National Committee and accounts for 60%t of the US population. UpGuard, a well-known cyber security firm, discovered the data leak, 10 to 12 days after the data was openly accessible.
A company called Deep Root Analytics, an organization that has been instrumental in running Republican Party political campaigns of nominees from Mitt Romney to Donald Trump, hosted the server and the 1TB of electoral data. Personal details all the way from home addresses, phone, numbers, birthdates and religious affiliations were left unsecured. All of this data was left without the protection of a password. The amount of data left open to be accessed would have been invaluable to cyber criminals around the world. Following the malware attacks earlier this year, it’s more important than ever for organizations to get up and get a grip of their cyber security practices. Though no system is impervious to external threats, there is no excuse for leaving the data of 200 million people readily available.
Skype Goes Down
At the beginning of the week, Skype was forced out of commission in Europe due to a suspected DDOS attack. Throughout the outage, users had difficulties sending or receiving messages and remaining connected to the Skype app for any length of time. After the attack, a group called ‘CyberTeam’ claimed responsibility for the DDOS attack on Twitter, warning that computer game giant’s steam would also be attacked in future.
Throughout the attack, the company’s heartbeat blog kept users updated and noted that “We’re aware users are still experiencing problems – we’re looking into this!”. However, despite the efforts of the Skype team, it appears that the Skype service was hopelessly unprepared for such an attack. Underlining the wider concerns of larger organizations in the wake of the attack, VP of Corero Network Security Stephanie Weagle stated that “It’s clear that DDoS attacks continue to impact even the largest global organizations, including the recent attack against Skype.”
From Weagle’s perspective, Skype and many other businesses remain ill equipped to deal with the cyber security demands of the future. According to Weagle, “Recent events have confirmed once again, proactive automated protection is required to keep the internet-connected business available in the face of DDoS attacks.” Given the susceptibility of the service, it’s hard to argue with her.
The ease with which Skype’s service was rendered obsolete (Not to mention the US voter data leak from the RNC) suggests that even the largest organizations are not positioned to protect their services from malicious attacks and cyber security blunders. As technology becomes more sophisticated and integrated it’s going to become even harder to prevent malicious attacks and ensure the integrity of increasingly complex systems. Now more than ever, organizations need to double their security efforts, in order to ensure the safety of their data in future.
Google Cloud launches in Sydney
On Tuesday, Internet giants Google opened a new cloud data center in Sydney Australia, increasing their cloud coverage in the region. The new cloud center will be Google’s 10th worldwide cloud region, following the launch of data centers in Singapore and Tokyo in the last two years. The move comes as part of an effort to compete with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure on the continent, and to expand Google’s overall infrastructure in the region.
The new Sydney data region will offer users core services like Compute Engine, Cloud Storage, Cloud VPN and Cloud DNS in addition to many other services enjoyed by users around the world. Unfortunately, services like App Engine, Cloud functions and services aren’t currently available in Sydney so it remains to be seen when Australian users will be able to make use of these popular services.
Customers in the region will do well from new data centers, as sending information over a long distance takes time, so having closer servers cuts that transmission time dramatically. Google’s tests show an 85 to 90% reduction in round-trip time latency for users in New Zealand and Australia.
It’s reassuring to see that the commitment to developing cloud services is a global phenomenon, as companies like Google attempt to enter into new markets. As our on-demand consumption increases in future we can only expect more and more data centers to crop up. Australians and New Zealanders will be sure to enjoy the reduction in latency and the introduction of yet another global cloud service provider.