Microsoft recently called for greater government oversight for the fast-growing, yet largely unregulated, cloud computing sector, citing the need to protect business and consumer information.
The software company's head counsel, Brad Smith, raised the issues in a speech on Jan. 21 at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., proposing a Cloud Computing Advancement Act.
"The cloud represents a major extension of computing models," said Smith. "In this sense, it really has become the next frontier."
Microsoft and many of its competitors, such as Google and Amazon.com, have already invested billions of dollars in cloud computing, where applications and data run on remote servers owned by third parties. With more and more information moving from the desktop to "the cloud", the next generation of applications will include business software and data.
For this reason, Smith urged regulators to consider rules focused on privacy, security and international sovereignty.
"There's no benefit in underestimating the savvy of potential attackers, now or in the future," Smith said. "Across the industry, we need to continue to dedicate ourselves both separately and together to strengthening the security of the cloud. We need to recognize that this will remain a daily fact of life."
Smith also said Congress needs to update federal laws so that they differentiate the penalties for an attack on a server that contains a multitude of files and one on a single computer. Current laws prosecute the two equally.
As an example of the danger of continued lax rules, Smith pointed to the recent cyberattacks from China on Google.
Smith also unveiled a Microsoft-sponsored report that said 90% of people are concerned about the security of their data in the cloud. The study, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland, found that 58% of the general population and 86% of senior business leaders are excited about the potential of cloud computing, but 90% still have concerns.