Access and Control of Cloud Files Could Be Compromised

By | Apr 13, 2012

Easy and continually available access to stored files and information is what makes cloud computing such a valuable tool for any organization. But when it comes to putting information into cloud storage, how much control do you keep? That control might be considerably less than you think, reports Government Computer News. Users voluntarily give up a certain amount of control of their data in exchange for ready availability, and the omnipresent threat of hackers is an inherent risk cloud users run.

But cloud users are, in general, aware of those risks. With the cloud, and an Internet-capable device that will run the stored files, users can open their cloud-stored files anywhere they can get on the Internet. However, this is also a drawback, as without an Internet connection, a user cannot access cloud-stored data.

Something else to consider is that, with cloud storage servers all over the world, those files are subject to each country's government's control. At present, there is no globally enforced standard for file security, and legal seizure of cloud-stored files has happened. Such legal action could be for criminal investigations or civil action, but either way, users could be locked out of files until the courts are done with the case.

Megaupload is a prime example. When that file-sharing service was recently accused of copyright infringement, all the stored data on their servers was rendered inaccessible, regardless of copyright holder.

The corollary to control is privacy. The more private something is, the more a user has control over it. The less private it becomes, the less control any one person has. At the same time, as pointed out in Wired, it is "delusional" to believe that our online activities are not already public in some way. Nearly all cloud use is monitored at some level, most notably email and messaging, says Tek Gazet; Tek Gazet also points out that, in that sense, people have been cloud computing since before the term was even coined.

Several researchers, in a white paper for Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) on the cloud and file control in the cloud, report that as the cloud evolves, accessibility and control will be revamped to give users more reliable and secure access to their files. However, control will always go out the window if the server is successfully hit by hackers or files are subpoenaed.

The bottom line is that as with any security issue, cloud users at midsize businesses need to take precautions to make sure they keep maximum control over their online files. Note the provider's security protocols and how much down time the service typically has. And remember that there is always the possibility that information sent into the cloud might not always be there when we need it.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Become a fan of the program on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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