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Every day more users move their computing lives from the desktop to the cloud and rely on hosted web applications to store and access email, photos, and documents. But this new frontier involves serious risks that aren't obvious to most.

Photo by Dyanna.

In an era of ubiquitous broadband, smartphones, and users who manage multiple computers and devices, it just makes sense to move your email, photos, documents, calendar, notes, finances, and contacts to awesome web applications like Gmail, Evernote, Flickr, Google Docs, Mint, etc. But transferring your personal data to hosted web applications has its potential pitfalls, risks that get lost in all the hype around cloud-centric new products like Google's new Chrome OS or the iPhone.

When you decide to move your data into the cloud, there are a few gotchas you should know about.

Lesser Privacy Protection Under the Law

To search your house or office (including documents stored on your computer's hard drive), cops need to obtain a search warrant. To get to the information you've stored on a third-party's web servers, they only need a subpoena, which is easier to obtain. This kind of search can also happen without your knowledge. The NY Times reports:

Thanks in part to the Patriot Act, the federal government has been able to demand some details of your online activities from service providers - and not to tell you about it. There have been thousands of such requests lodged since the law was passed, and the F.B.I.'s own audits have shown that there can be plenty of overreach - perhaps wholly inadvertent - in requests like these.

Some think that privacy advocates are actually conspiracy theorists and that in reality, no one in the government is reading your email. That may be true. Still, you should know that the legal process for a third party to access your data in the cloud is different than if it's on your own computer. Photo by mujitra (´・ω・).

Security Systems That Are Too Easy to Break Into

The government getting access to your data stored in the cloud is probably much less of a concern than someone illegally getting to it. Crappy web-based security systemsâ€"like weak password recovery workflows, phishing attacks, and keyloggersâ€"present bigger security risks.

Just last week hundreds of embarrassing and revealing internal company documents from Twitter were published online, obtained by a hacker who used Gmail's password recovery mechanism to break into an employee's personal Gmail account. This could have happened to anyone. (Two lessons to be learned from this particular intrusion: use strong and different passwords for every cloud app you log into, and make sure your alternate email account is NOT Hotmail.)

In collaborative web applications that are built for groupsâ€"like Google Apps or any web-based project management softwareâ€"the security concerns spread across everyone involved. The security of the entire system is only as strong as the weakest user's setup. Once one person's weak password is brute-forced or guessed, everyone's documents and information are at risk.

Data Lock-in and Third-party Control

Amazon reaches into customers' Kindles and remotely deletes already-purchased books. Facebook launches Beacon, an advertising mechanism that collects and publishes information about what you do on external web sites on your Facebook profile (only to apologize and offer opt-out later). Apple denies approval for the Google Voice application in the App Store. Twitter doesn't offer the ability to export more than 3,200 status updates. Flickr only lets you see the last 200 photos you uploaded if you don't have a paid Pro account. MySpace and Facebook don't immediately remove photos from their servers when you delete them. When you're living in the cloud, you're beholden to a third party who can make decisions about your data and platform in ways never seen before in computing.

Server Unavailability and Account Lockout

One of the biggest benefits of storing your data in the cloud is that you don't have to worry about backing it up anymore. Big companies with hundreds of servers are more reliable than your little external hard drive, right? Yes. But servers do go down, and when you're dependent on a web application to get your email or access that PowerPoint slideshow for the big presentation, there's always the risk that your internet connection will go down, or that the webapp's servers will. Offline technologies like Google Gears, decent export functionality, and a good backup system can ameliorate this particular concern, but not all systems offer those things.

Getting locked out of your webapp account is another possible pitfall. The
NY Times reports:

Discussion forums abound with tales of woe from Gmail customers who have found themselves locked out of their account for days or even weeks. They were innocent victims of security measures, which automatically suspend access if someone tries unsuccessfully to log on repeatedly to an account. The customers express frustration that they can't speak with anyone at Google after filling out the company's online forms and waiting in vain for Google to restore access to their accounts.

(If you're worried about getting locked out of your Gmail account in particular, here's one way to automatically back up your mail to your computer.)

Don't get me wrong: I personally am right on the cloud bandwagon with all of you. My web browser is the one app I run on my desktop at all times; I've entrusted the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo with my data just like you have. The key is to know what you're getting into when you make that choice, to ratchet up your personal security mechanisms (like alternate email addresses and password choices) and to lobby for better user protection by hosting providers in the cloud.

[...]

http://lifehacker.com/5325169/the-hi...loud-computing
 
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Good read.. Thanks!
 

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Anyone remember the mainframes? That's basically what Cloud is, only instead of an inter-building/campus LAN, it's over the internet...and using multiple machines instead of just one....and a catchy name...bah. I keep my crap local, and I always will. Cloud is simply too untrustable for me to ever give it a serious thought.
 

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Also, if their service goes, they take everything with them. All your e-mails, your pictures, your games? Gone. Some people rely on this stuff too much.

I'm pretty sure there's something being drawn up here in the UK over the privacy issues. Facebook are doing all kinds of backhanded dirty crap with peoples private details. Just joining facebook and using a couple of applications gained me a few hundred spam mails. Also, if you leave Facebook, all those companies who they SOLD your information to aren't obliged to delete it and stop using it and they won't. So, Facebook is buying an selling your information and doesn't care. They're like legit hackers.

Fortunately, like I said, In the UK, I'm sure there's something being drawn up over this, because we have data protection laws in the UK that place me in control of all my private data. If someone holds your data, they may only do so for a certain amount of time and they must, by law, remove it upon your request.

Hey, Brits, did you know you can legally demand a copy of any CCTV footage you appear on?
 

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Cloud computing will be useless when the zombie outbreak occurs in 2012.

Just kidding
 

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This should have been obvious to everybody on OCN. I am shocked how many people seem to support cloud computing.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by Kryten
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Also, if their service goes, they take everything with them. All your e-mails, your pictures, your games? Gone. Some people rely on this stuff too much.

I'm pretty sure there's something being drawn up here in the UK over the privacy issues. Facebook are doing all kinds of backhanded dirty crap with peoples private details. Just joining facebook and using a couple of applications gained me a few hundred spam mails. Also, if you leave Facebook, all those companies who they SOLD your information to aren't obliged to delete it and stop using it and they won't. So, Facebook is buying an selling your information and doesn't care. They're like legit hackers.

Fortunately, like I said, In the UK, I'm sure there's something being drawn up over this, because we have data protection laws in the UK that place me in control of all my private data. If someone holds your data, they may only do so for a certain amount of time and they must, by law, remove it upon your request.

Hey, Brits, did you know you can legally demand a copy of any CCTV footage you appear on?

One problem though is that your data is not private when you put it up on Facebook or Myspace or Twitter. People should use discretion as to what they're putting on these sites. Don't put personal info on the cloud unless you want others to see it. Though they should delete any info you want deleted immediately.

Cloud computing should really only be used as a backups, and like I said, even then it should only be things you want or expect others to see and use.

IMO Cloud computing is one of the worst trends. I gurantee in one year's time some dolt from the Department of Defense will use Google docs or some other equally ridiculous DMS to store nuclear secrets, or collaborate with a co-worker on the invasion of a 3rd world country. Just give it time.
 

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The company I work for manages assets for larger corporations and large commercial buildings. We gather nameplate data and whatnot from any asset that the customer would like to track. We have a yearly fee we charge on top of an information gather/installation fee. If the client no longer wishes to use our services we simply offload the data into report form and give it to them. Seems like this should work the same way. If you don't wanna pay the monthly fee then you should have access to get the files/data you stored up till the point of account termination.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by redfroth
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One problem though is that your data is not private when you put it up on Facebook or Myspace or Twitter. People should use discretion as to what they're putting on these sites. Don't put personal info on the cloud unless you want others to see it. Though they should delete any info you want deleted immediately.

Cloud computing should really only be used as a backups, and like I said, even then it should only be things you want or expect others to see and use.

IMO Cloud computing is one of the worst trends. I gurantee in one year's time some dolt from the Department of Defense will use Google docs or some other equally ridiculous DMS to store nuclear secrets, or collaborate with a co-worker on the invasion of a 3rd world country. Just give it time.

THIS.

Cloud computing works great for things that you don't mind sharing with the rest of the world. Same as Facebook...if you didn't want to share your information you put there then why did you upload it to the internet? You know very well the website address isn't httpS.
 

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I'm pretty suprised at the support cloud computing is getting also. These idiots who hate spam mail are the same one saying "I can save all my files on the internet...neato!" NO THANK YOU. I like to do my computer work with as little third party involvement as possible.

For some reason though, I can see cloud computing becoming more and more implemented...
Google is gunna lure more and more noobs in with their ChromeOS and if Apple ever creates a *Cloud*OS...no levy of any size will be able to stop the Newbie flood to cloud computing.
 
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