Digital Lockers: King of Convenience or Security Jester?

1 May

Over the weekend a turn of any newspaper would be smothered with news of the grand royal wedding. A wedding of the highest importance and of historic significance. Few, however, would of read up on historic movements happening in the digital world. 

The cloud, digital locker, streaming, Spotify, what ever label you give it, the cloud represents the next chapter. For those of you relatively new to the concept, it is the storing and accessing of entertainment/files, be it music, movies, documents, pictures etc, on an external server metaphorically known as, to you and I, “The Cloud”. Streaming will revolutionise the way we listen to music, watch the latest blockbuster or read a good back – ultimately this will see a huge shift in media consumption.

Though it may sound extreme today, all those DVDs, albums, photos, books will become redundant in the future. All that physical clutter will be swept to one side replaced by one remote control. Though this sorry state of digital affairs (to some) might be a not-so-distant reality, there are still a few storms to weather before the cloud can set sail.

These past few weeks could turn out to be the biggest breach of data privacy since the advent of the internet. Sony admitted this week that hackers had stolen personal information, possibly including credit-card details, of many of the 77m-plus users of its online-gaming and entertainment networks. The Japanese company did not admit the full extent of the potential risks to its customers until nearly a week after it had taken its PlayStation Network off air, though it insisted that it had done so as soon as it realised how serious the intrusion into its systems had been.

Amazon, an American online retailer and provider of “cloud computing” services, has also suffered a lengthy breakdown at one of the giant server farms whose storage and processing facilities it rents to other companies including social media companies Foursquare, Reddit as well other prominent start-ups. The two lapses, though unconnected and different in nature, have raised the question of whether customers can really trust the basic idea behind the cloud—that you can buy computing services from the internet, just like gas or water from a utility.

But building a totally secure and reliable cloud-based system, or indeed any other kind of computer system, is impossible. More break-ins and breakdowns are inevitable. What matters is that service-providers, consumers and corporate clients all learn the right lessons from the events of the past week. But none of this means the shift to cloud computing is about to go into reverse. Indeed, Forrester, a research outfit, reckons that the global market for cloud services could grow from $41 billion last year to $241 billion by 2020.

These events should be a lesson to all consumers, ensuring not to use the same passwords on multiple online systems, which exposes them to the danger that a compromise in one system will enable the same credentials to be used to access another. Being able to manage passwords and spot “phishing” e-mails that try to trick recipients into revealing bank details and other information are now important life skills, like it or not.

The lesson for companies let down by Amazon’s outage is that they need to be aware of the risks of being too reliant on a single supplier, with cloud computing as with anything else. Firms that use cloud-based systems should be looking at ways to distribute work across multiple providers. Although the cloud has many benefits and is generally quite reliable, it is clearly bound to produce the odd thunderstorm.


One Response to “Digital Lockers: King of Convenience or Security Jester?”

  1. Create May 3, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Hi G & C,
    Have owned some the best equipment available from cars to
    audio and believe me they all fail at sometime. Cloud may have a future but not for this guy.If Sony and my Bank can be hacked then I bet peanuts to cocoa nuts that someone will find a way into Cloud.

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