In one of his final acts before leaving office, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order designed to prevent foreign actors from using cloud computing services to launch attacks against the country.
As per the order, the Commerce Department will be given six months to establish new rules for US-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, which will be asked to vet the identity of foreign customers more closely.
The order, which is said to have been two years in the making, would give the US government the right to ban the exchange of cloud services with foreign actors suspected of using them for cyberattacks. It may also apply to whole jurisdictions, not just individuals and organizations.
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US cloud computing industry
According to the Trump administration, an unwelcome trend has emerged whereby US cloud computing resources are procured on behalf of foreign cybercriminals, who use them to launch attacks on US-based entities.
“What we have seen in this space is that an individual will rent thousands of pieces of this infrastructure inside the United States and resell them to actors who then abuse them,” explained a senior official.
“[The executive order] provides the Secretary of Commerce with the ability to say: ‘There is no reason for you to continue to have access to the nation’s products’.”
The US is home to each of the three largest cloud computing platforms in the world: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The influence of the “big three”, however, extends well beyond US shores.
The latest data from Statista suggests AWS holds a global market share of 33%, followed by Azure with 18% and Google Cloud with 9%. The nearest non-US rivals are China-based Alibaba Cloud (6%) and Tencent Cloud (2%).
Another recent report, from Synergy Research Research Group, claims that European cloud businesses have haemorrhaged market share to US competitors since 2017, during which period cloud spending in the region has reached almost $7 billion.
While malicious foreign actors have alternative options available in the field of cloud computing, barring them from transacting with US providers eliminates the current crème de la crème.
However, President-elect Joe Biden is under no obligation to uphold executive orders issued by his predecessor. It remains to be seen whether the new President will inherit the same stance on the issue.
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