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February 25, 2008

Partly Cloudy

It seems like everyday we dream up some new way to render ourselves vulnerable to attack, be it physical, digital, or financial. Most of it is in the name of convenience, progress, or self-expression. The world continues to open barriers of all kinds. National borders are quickly and easily crossed. Teenagers bear their souls (and much more) on social networking sites and blogs. It’s enough to make you ask: are we asking for it, or what?

Take the trend towards “cloud” computing. In our endless efforts to design smaller and lighter computing devices, we are forever blurring the distinction between your home PC and the Internet. It is about processing power that resides not in the palm of your hand, but rather on the network.

It’s nothing new. Computer companies have been talking about it for decades. And it has become a reality in many ways in just the last few years. Entire corporate applications no longer reside in a company’s data center. They live on the Internet, accessible with a minimum of effort, just a username and a password. That one day everything but the viewing screen and input device will live on the network is understood. It’s only a matter of time.

But this move to cloud computing cedes more control over the security of data to the companies that house that data. Today, we can protect our most valuable digital assets on a personal hard drive. Whether it is photographs, music, financial information, or just plain work data, because it resides on our own hard drives, each individual is responsible for the safety and privacy of that information if it sits on their C Drive. It is distributed, and thereby less vulnerable to widespread, massive attacks.

The world of cloud computing complicates this simple truth, however. Increasingly we trust our data to data centers that we will never see in our lifetime. Already I have valuable data sitting in hard drives on four different continents. And this trend will only continue. And as that information becomes increasingly centralized, the possibility of a catastrophic security breach becomes greater. At some point, the losses would be so great that it would not be a corporate data loss crisis, but a national, or even global, security crisis.

It raises some very serious questions. For instance, should these private enterprises that house treasure troves of digital information be entitled to government protection? What recourse do private citizens have if a private enterprise, or government, were to fail to protect valuable data?

These are all questions we hope to address during our Security and Society Deep Dives. But your thoughts on these topics, and others, are welcome as always.

February 25, 2008 in Security and Society | Permalink


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Yep..."convenience, progress, or self-expression"

vs. "make an effort/deal with it", "understand and work with what you have," and "who care's about you"

Posted by: ShimCode | Feb 25, 2008 4:14:52 PM

I guess what bothers me most about data and the web is not it's security, or lack of it. It is never really knowing how secure you are, that creates the problem.

There is a sense of unease that comes from not knowing whether you are in an electronic fishbowl, or not - Or how big that fishbowl is.

Posted by: Tim Raisbeck | Mar 10, 2008 7:39:26 AM

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