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Cloud cartography refers to figuring out the physical locations of hardware installations used by cloud computing service providers. Mapping a service provider’s hardware can help identify the most likely locations for a virtual machine, or help viewers to generally understand where the service provider deploys hardware.
While cloud cartography can help legitimate users make the services of a cloud provider more efficient, critics of this kind of mapping tend to point out that cloud cartography can leave service providers vulnerable to some types of liabilities from outside hackers or attackers. In theory, hackers could use cloud cartography approaches to figure out where virtual machines are and then create what are called side channel attacks. In this type of attack, an outside party would identify a location for virtual machines, and then place their own virtual machines co-resident with those being operated by the cloud service provider. This could result in the exploitation of specific vulnerabilities in service provider software, and could lead to data theft or similar outcomes. These issues are being addressed in cloud security forums and other types of IT resources around the web.