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Clearing Up the Cloud: Privacy vs. Security

Posted by on May 22, 2013

For businesses and individual users that need more storage than most, cloud storage and sharing solutions have revolutionized the world of data management. Hosting sensitive files on a hard drive is dangerous because it leaves data open to attack and even loss in the case of a power outage or system failure.

So instead of taking up space with expensive onsite servers, many are opting for the convenience of cloud storage, in which data “floats” in an online network. While this newer and increasingly popular method of data storage and management is easier on the budget and company workflow, cloud services have also become prime targets for hacking. Early in 2013, the cloud service Evernote suffered an attack on its servers. The consequence of this single breach of security is that user names, private email accounts, and even individual passwords were accessed, threatening the security of users as well as diminishing public confidence in the company.

Stuart McClure, former chief technology officer of McAfee

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According to some data security experts like Stuart McClure, former chief technology officer of McAfee, finding a truly secure cloud storage service can often be like “picking a dog with the least fleas.” But even cautious business owners and web-savvy users have made the shift to the cloud in droves despite security concerns to save money that would otherwise be spent on expensive servers and a bigger staff.

PaaS Market Forecast

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The convenience of the cloud makes up for lack of resources and funding, ultimately generating a massive amount of savings for most midsize businesses and firms looking to cut costs on hardware, software, upgrades, and staff. But all of these added benefits don’t make up for the devastating consequences a security breach could leave on a company, and those that have already made the switch to cloud storage are now scrambling to find secure solutions to the threat of attack. As cloud computing is predicted to grow by close to 20 percent this year, the cloud security market is filling in vulnerabilities left by this revolution in the market, with projections that cloud security services will make up about 10 percent of the IT security market within two years.

Cloud computing & IT spending

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While the threat of attack remains a very real possibility, with proper security measures, no one should be dissuaded from taking their business to the future that is cloud computing. For one, cloud storage allows companies to tap the resources of workers all around the world for real-time collaboration and increased productivity. And for anyone that’s ever experienced the nerve-shattering frustration of having a company server attacked or even just offline for a few hours, switching from easily compromised onsite servers to cloud storage saves both time and money. Ultimately, finding a secure cloud service is much cheaper and more convenient than the alternative of hiring a bigger staff and maintaining onsite storage.

What About Security?

While the pros definitely outweigh the cons in making the switch to the cloud, all that convenience and money saved means nothing if your sensitive data is hacked. Storing company data or private information like financial and health records on a cloud means that those cloud servers could still be hacked unless the service is somehow anonymous and fully private.

The issue of cloud security is complicated and many users and businesses that have made the switch unfortunately don’t take the time to research the stark differences between the varieties of cloud solutions on the market. Many cloud providers understand the vulnerabilities of their services and offer encrypted passwords as a line of defense against third party attacks. But this common response still leaves gaps that invite dangerous security breaches.

Most of these “secure” cloud services are still quite vulnerable, with reports of services being hacked almost on a daily basis, from Yahoo emails to LivingSocial. An encrypted password is just a slight complication for a savvy attacker, and will do little to protect your private data from the eyes of anyone with enough drive and skill to seize it. What compounds the problem is the convenient but dangerous and popular company policy of Bring Your Own Device.

Bring Your Own Device policies allow workers to utilize their own devices to access the company cloud. Common cloud storage services like Dropbox and Evernote, can leave sensitive corporate information vulnerable to breach by third party attacks. But with a fully anonymous and private cloud storage system, users and companies can take full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing and Bring Your Own Device policies without having to worry about the major threat of hacking.

Privacy vs. Security

Though “secure” clouds are still vulnerable to data mining and attack, a truly private cloud storage and sync service like SpiderOak can provide all the convenience and cost savings while guaranteeing protection from third party attacks and security breaches.

Users can store and synchronize sensitive files without having to worry about cyber spying, hacking, or even data mining from the company itself, as SpiderOak has “zero-knowledge” of your data stored on its servers as it never has access to your password in plaintext. This means that the company is technically incapable of reading your information, making this fully private and anonymous storage and sync service a stark contrast to vulnerable “secure” clouds.

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