A Survey of Cloud Computing Challenges from a Digital Forensics Perspective

A Survey of Cloud Computing Challenges from a Digital Forensics Perspective

Gregory H. Carlton (California State Polytechnic University, USA) and Hill Zhou (California State Polytechnic University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0879-5.ch511
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Computing and communication technologies have merged to produce an environment where many applications and their associated data reside in remote locations, often unknown to the users. The adoption of cloud computing promises many benefits to users and service providers, as it shifts users’ concerns away from the physical location of system components and toward the accessibility of the system’s services. While this adoption of cloud computing may be beneficial to users and service providers, it increases areas of concern for computer forensic examiners that need to obtain data from cloud computing environments for evidence in legal matters. The authors present an overview of cloud computing, discuss the challenges it raises from a digital forensics perspective, describe suitable tools for forensic analysis of cloud computing environments, and consider the future of cloud computing.
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Overview Of Cloud Computing

Most of today’s computer users are impacted by cloud computing in some form, and it is becoming an increasingly attractive approach for organizations that seek to transition from in-house data centers to remote, third-party managed data centers (Brodkin, 2009). While the usage of cloud computing is increasing, the concept of cloud computing triggers different perceptions in different people, largely since the nature of cloud computing is not based on a single technology. Instead, it is a combination of many existing technologies, including thin clients, virtualization, online storage, and service oriented architecture (SOA) (Amrhein & Quint, 2009). Similar to the apologue described in John Godfrey Sax’s poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant, (Saxe), people have different views on the composition and significance of cloud computing yet fail to capture the big picture. For many end-users and managers, the idea of cloud computing is nothing newer than exchanging information and documents through web-based, e-mail services, such as Hotmail or Gmail, and others recognize the concept as an extension of the timesharing model developed in the 1960s (Schneier, 2009). However, from IT professionals’ perspectives, these elder computing models hardly resemble the contemporary cloud computing age, as new inventions of virtualization, online collaboration, connectivity, and processor power combine to create our current era of computation. Recognizing the array of technological components comprising cloud computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers the following definition: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable and reliable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal consumer management effort or service provider interaction” (Mell & Grance, 2009).

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