Are cloud communication protocols secure?

There’s security and there’s security. While a hacker might not break the encrypted communication directly, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways.

03/02/2012


Dear Control Engineering: I was reading the article about networking protocols, and there is a statement that Skype, and by implication, other cloud technologies, are secure. Is this true?

Yes, it is if you are specific about what means exactly. Let’s digress for a moment and consider a historical parallel. Back during WWII, the German armed services used a device called an Enigma machine that encrypted messages sent by radio using Morse code. While the allies were able to intercept the radio traffic, without breaking the code, they were unable to understand the messages. So, there were enormous efforts to find ways to break the process. Those stories are fascinating and you can read them elsewhere, but successes usually came as a result of sloppy radio operators or largely brute force methods to simply try every possible key using early electro-mechanical computers.

Modern encryption is far more complex. The AES (advanced encryption standard) used with most communication on the Internet can employ a 256-bit key which would require 2200 operations to break by brute force. So it isn’t possible to decode the information by intercepting the transmission. That doesn’t mean it is secure necessarily. A determined hacker will simply find another way, and that probably means getting the message by going after one of the people that is sending or receiving. Even if the code is unbreakable, if someone breaks into my computer from outside, he or she can likely see the same information I can. My security depends on how well I protect the information once it is decoded. Using my earlier analogy, it would be like looking over the radio operator’s shoulder and seeing the message in plain text before it’s encoded.

Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.