Dark iClouds On The Horizon

Dark iClouds on the Horizon
With all of the rush to “cloud computing,” few people are taking the time to think about what it means. Those who are able to understand “the cloud” are not really explaining it well to their friends and families.
I am probably guilty of this as well.

So I want to take some time here, and probably in the future, to explain what the “cloud” is and some of the problems that are looming.

So, first off, a definition: what the heck is “the cloud” anyway? The Cloud(tm) is an engineers way of discussing the networks that make up the Internet. Because all of the networks that make up the Internet would be a nightmare to diagram, whenever someone wants to indicate “the Internet” they draw a cloud.
Hence, “the cloud.”

Yes, but what is the cloud? Any computer you can store data(pictures, documents, etc.) on that is not a computer that you own or have immediate access to, that is reachable only through an Internet connection, is the cloud. All of them.
Ok, thats just “cloud storage”. Cloud Computing is something else entirely.
But we’re dealing with cloud storage today.
(Whats the difference? Wouldnt you like to know? Stay Tuned.)

Ok, so thats the cloud. Whats the Big Deal? The Big Deal is nearly instant access to all of your data from any device, anywhere. Anywhere you can get good signal, that is.
It takes some imagining, but the idea is that if you upload (that is, store) your data to an Internet computer, then you can retrieve it from any device with an Internet connection.
Like photos.
Or Netflix.
Or your music.
Or that document you need for your work, but forgot to take with you.

It could be really, really convenient.

Or really, really bad.

Any cloud storage provider in the U.S. and allied nations(Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc) must give up any and all data to any U.S. government agency upon request.
Currently, any data stored outside of your home computer or personal computing device is not subject to Constitutional protections. It can be seized unreasonably, or by corrupt federal agents. Your cloud-stored data can be used to incriminate you for crimes where data stored on your home computer cannot.

Any data stored in the cloud is vulnerable to theft. Most cloud service providers do not encrypt your data as it is stored, so thieves can break in and steal it (think credit card breaches).

Whats worse than data theft? Having a non-governmental agency, for example the RIAA, demand that you provide purchase records for all of the music you have stored on iCloud.

And what happens if you choose the wrong cloud storage provider? Your data could be deleted without warning (even if you are paid up), it could be sold off, it could even be seized by a government who then decides that the type of data you have stored indicates that you have taken part in a crime. (Especially if you are innocent; real criminals take precautions against that sort of thing.)

If you decide that cloud storage and privacy are as important, and you encrypt everything with an older, but still good, encryption algorithm, the government can force you at gunpoint to give up the key.

But dont worry about it, the chances of the government coming after you are slim to none, right?

You just keep telling yourself that.

You probably think that e-commerce is safe, too.

Life in the Clouds

I never thought I lived in the clouds. Today, I found out differently.

Some people may be saying, why is Stephen talking about meteorological terms? I’m not. In the world of computers, cloud storage means storing files and information on the internet. What are the benefits, you may ask? Let me tell you what happen to me, today.

My main computer went in for repairs due to a cataclysmic event last week. My laptop fell to the floor and the screen fractured into many pieces. Needless to say, the screen became useless. Today, the crippled machine started its journey towards New York for repair.

In the absence of my machine, i could use my wife’s machine.  That takes care of the hardware; far more valuable is all the data I have accumulated over the years. I could live without all the documents, what about contacts, calendars, and web bookmark. While a could live without them for a short term, having these to refer to over the week could be valuable. How could i make my “temporary” home feel like home?

I started out making a second account on my wife’s machine. That way, I could have my own folders on the hard drive and leave my wife’s folders untouched. But what about the data?

That’s where the cloud, storing data on the internet, came into play. Since the data existed of the net, if was only a matter of copying that information to my temporary home. Within a half hour, I had  nearly fully functional machine. Here is the information I retrieved and where I got it from.

Information Location
Passwords 1Password and Dropbox
Contacts iCloud
Calendars From my local server
Web bookmarks iCloud
Multiple Mail accounts Gmail-iMap, iCloud

That’s a pretty functional machine for so little work! Feel like home. Long live cloudy weather!