The cloud has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its ease-of-use and variable functionality. What could be better than accessing all of your stored files from any location, on any device? Well, it turns out that the system is not without chinks in the security armor. Online data storage companies claim that their clients’ data is encrypted and protected, but there are no guarantees. The truth is that there is simply no way to be 100% certain online data is secure once it’s been moved to the cloud. This is due to the fact that online storage businesses hold all the keys to access your information- not you. This opens the door for rogue employees to sabotage accounts, or for the government to surpass security checkpoints and “legally” request encryption keys to see your files.
Apple’s iMessage SMS platform is an example of this proof of concept. The company states that both voice and text are secured through encryption and cannot be accessed by third parties. However, the product is not open source so there is no way for the public to know how it works or what goes on in the backend. The uncertainty of data security still remains.
And now for the big shocker: The Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union recently revealed that the American government reserves the right to access and view personal data without warrants of any kind. This means they can access anyone’s information of any kind if it is achievable through the internet or account hosts (probably not as surprising, after the NSA scandal in 2013). In 2012, Google received 21,389 government requests for account data (affecting 33,500+ user accounts). The search giant complied 66% of the time. Microsoft receives even more requests than Google, at 70,665 government inquiries in 2012 (affecting 122,000+ user accounts). Over 80% of those requests resulted in partial or complete content disclosure. These are just the recorded instances; the ACLU has also determined that the IRS has read citizen emails without obtaining court orders first.
So what can you do to completely protect your information? The cloud is a great tool for organizing data in a centralized location with easy accessibility, but it is not ideal for sensitive material. Many consumers don’t mind that cloud companies have the ability to pass some of their information over to the government. Likewise, companies that store non-sensitive records on the cloud should not need to worry about getting hacked. It’s when you need absolute privacy that you should consider other options- medical files, credit card information, and other financial data should be protected to the highest degree. It’s always good to know if a service provider will fight to protect your account information from the government, so do your homework.
iPoint is moving to the cloud! In the meantime, we still offer traditional data backup and storage options which are maintained on our internal servers in Fort Collins. Keep an eye peeled for cloud service offerings down the road in 2014, and remember to protect your information!