A better approach to online security: Think of the cloud as someone else's computer

Online storage space isn't just like your hard drive

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Recently, there was a big hullaballoo about the possibility of Dropbox snooping on users' files, after Dropbox user Darrell Whitelaw saw a DCMA notice on one of his folders. Since then, Dropbox has clarified the limited way it scans our stuff, but it still raises an important point: Our Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other online storage folders are not really "ours" (even if you pay for the space).

Like Whitelaw, who said in a tweet "I treat [Dropbox] like my hard drive, many of us think of our online storage space like we do hard drives. After all, they function the same and are as easy to access as our local drives. 

We don't really control these folders, though, and even with lots of privacy and security assurances, cloud services will always be riskier than drives you completely own and control.

I don't think we have to ditch all our online services--they definitely come with worthy conveniences. However, this quote from security expert Graham Cluley (quoted on Sophos) puts it into great perspective:

On this I can give you no more sound advice than that of former Naked Security writer Graham Cluley: for a better understanding of how you should approach security in The Cloud simply replace all instances of the words in The Cloud with the words on somebody else's computer.

The only way to completely keep other people out of your business when it's on-the-wire or in The Cloud on somebody else's computer is to encrypt your files before they leave your system, using keys that you control.

Cluley's thoughts on the Dropbox privacy situation are worth a read, especially if you store sensitive information to the cloud--I mean, someone else's computer.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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