After the event known around the world as “The Fappening,” computer users have come to the realization that their cloud security is as ephemeral as its namesake. Lack of two-factor authentication, internal security vulnerability and even the behaviors of individual users have been blamed. leaving users wondering if cloud storage is even safe.
Users can rest assured that cloud storage is safe, but it is important to be careful. Since the attack in The Fappening was a targeted one, hackers were able to find out the information needed to answer security questions and bypass other steps from public information. Apple says that the attack was not because their iCloud was breached, but because these celebrities already had put information out there that allowed them specifically to be breached. The cloud is safe, they allege – it is individuals that are not.
In order to understand the issue, it is necessary to understand how cloud storage works. Normally, when storing data, a user will save it to their own personal hard drive. Cloud storage would store that information on an off-site server. This allows the user to access their information from anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection. These cloud servers can hold anything, but some are used for specific things like photos, or for work tools like Google Docs. The most recognizable cloud storage system is most likely a user’s email. Non-deleted emails are not saved on a computer’s hard drive, but kept on servers at Yahoo! or Google or whatever email service is used.
The benefits for using cloud storage are numerous. It allows computers to move faster, as they are not encumbered with loads of data. It also lets businesses show clients projects and information without making them visit the office. Cloud storage truly revolutionizes the global market by wiping away distance to make business possible between entities across the globe.
Much of the issue relies on how individuals protect themselves while using cloud storage. Long, involved passwords with numbers or symbols are one way users can add a layer of protection. Two-factor authentication has become the buzzword around this hack. The idea is that when there is a problem with someone’s account, a text with a code is sent to a phone number that the user has set up beforehand. In a 2012 Wired article, writer Mat Honan related his experiences of being hacked without the protection of a two-factor verification system. By using only easily found information already on the web, hackers were able to break into his accounts and almost completely wipe away Honan’s digital footprint. Along with this, there are certain, theoretical questions surrounding the cloud. For example, who owns the information on the cloud? Is it the person who uploads it, or is it whoever owns the server where the cloud is located?
In the future, the cloud is where business will get done. As business continues to globalize, and the world economy becomes more and more entwined, the cloud will be an integral and vital part of the working life. While the inevitability of the cloud is not in question, the way to deal with the accompanying security and philosophical issues is still in flux. Most likely, it will only take time.
By Bryan Levy