Blake Dowling: Vulnerability still floats in ‘the cloud’

Cloud computing
Even 'the cloud' isn't safe from hackers.

Cyberthreats and hacking are everywhere; all of us are a target.

When hackers exploit tech giants like Microsoft, it makes us feel even more vulnerable as we saw last week.

A closer look at the Microsoft incident shows it was only affecting on-premises Exchange servers; there are not many of those in North Florida.

Every client we work with has their email in the cloud, so it impacted no none we work with. Still, it was Microsoft, which has a beyond hefty cybersecurity budget.

Even though cloud email was not affected, it adds to the common assumption that cloud computing is bulletproof. It is not.

This vulnerability is why the best practice is to back up your cloud email, just like anything else. A cloud is still just hardware somewhere else besides your office; clouds get viruses or worse (as does just about anything else).

What happens when this “somewhere else” burns down? A brutal example of a cloud/data center wake-up call occurred in France this month when four data centers caught fire.

The French data centers did not host email but websites and millions of sites from Britain, France, and Europe. They were taken down because of this situation in Strasbourg (fact of the day: it’s also home to the EU Parliament).

When vetting a cloud provider, make sure you ask how they mirror their data, meaning “is it replicated on East Coast and West Coast (if a U.S. provider)?” That would be ideal.

Do not assume your cloud provider is also your disaster-recovery plan provider.

Back to cybercriminals. Did you see what happened in Oldsmar, Florida last month? Cybercriminals hacked a water treatment facility and tried to poison the city’s water supply.

As the world turned to work remotely, an operation like this was never designed to be run off-site (from a security standpoint). It appears that hackers exploited remote access software to gain access. According to CNN, an unused platform called TeamViewer appeared to be how hackers gained access to the facility’s network.

Luckily, a worker at the plant noticed someone changing the sodium hydroxide level in the water supply — from 100 parts per million to over 11,100 PPM.

This change, if successful, could have led to serious health consequences for the local population.

This particular hack is hyper-frightening, as most cybercriminals are after cash.

That this person or persons (or nation-state) were looking to poison our population is a grim situation (to say the least) with the guilty parties still at large, at least from what I can tell.

The rest of the tech world has certainly noticed the water facility intrusion, with our power companies and health care providers all taking a fresh look at network vulnerabilities. Plus, on the national level, lawmakers are reacting to this event (and the Solar Winds incident) by rolling out legislation to fight the hackers, specifically the Department of Homeland Security Industrial Control Systems Enhancement Act. You can read up on this bipartisan effort here.

Moving on to breaches. Like college football (and elections), Florida, California and Texas lead the charge in actual data breaches. According to the Business Observer, Florida ranks at No. 4 in the U.S., with over 600 breaches affecting over 350 million records. Most of them, close to 340 million, were from one staggering breach affecting marketing firm Exactis located in Palm Beach.

As we head out of the pandemic over the coming weeks and months, be prepared for having to escalate; each shift, cybercriminals follow along.

Make sure you have your multifactor authentication in place, along with a cyber-insurance policy, a really, really long password, and backups of everything.

Think of redundancy at every level, even when your stuff is “somewhere else.”

Stay safe out there, Florida.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at [email protected]

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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