In the last few years, cloud storage has burst onto the tech scene as the panacea solution for data storage. No longer do you have to keep expensive hardware on your premises for your increasingly gigabyte-consuming software. Nowadays you can stick all this ever-growing data up in the cloud.
Indeed, it sounds like the equivalent of throwing landfill off the face of the planet to fix environmental degradation. However, the reality is that data infrastructure is not where it needs to be to ensure the wild success of cloud storage.
A CLOUDED HISTORY
The benefit of storing data in a defined physical place is that it’s much easier to contain and secure. Once you put data in the cloud it becomes automatically vulnerable to hackers and data breaches. To date, there has been a torrent of incidents. Microsoft was one of the first to be breached, when in 2010 employee information was hacked, a disturbing harbinger of things to come. In 2012 Dropbox had more than 68 million user accounts hacked and close to 5 gigabytes of data stolen. That same year LinkedIn felt the sting of cybercriminals when 6 million user passwords were appropriated and then published on a Russian forum. Then again in May 2016, hackers stole and attempted to sell onwards the details of an estimated 167 million LinkedIn user accounts. As recently as 2017, Apple iCloud experienced what may be considered the most extensive high profile cloud security breach, when several celebrities had their private photos leaked online.
Not just restricted to the online world, security breaches can potentially have a damaging impact on the real world. In 2016, the National Electoral Institute of Mexico had over 93 million voter registration records compromised. The majority of the records were lost due to the poorly configured database which made confidential information publicly available. This situation was not resolved, with the potential threat to destabilizing national democratic foundations going unnoticed.
However, the company that holds the title for the largest breach of cloud security in history is tech titan Yahoo. Over the course of three years, Yahoo was able to tally up the full extent of the damage that occurred as a result of a breach in 2013. One billion user accounts were attacked, with data that included names, email addresses, dates of birth and answers to secret security questions, all swiped off their systems.
THE UNSUSPECTED SOLUTION
One solution that is perhaps best equipped to address cloud security is the blockchain. Best known for Bitcoin and the ability to produce scarce tokens that incrementally increase in value, the genius behind blockchain is its ability to store enormous amounts of data behind an encrypted ledger that is generally immutable. The whole concept behind blockchain relies on the theory that all parties involved mutually distrust each other, and new “blocks” can only be added to the “chain” through advancing its encryption. This underlying structure means that with time it has become virtually impossible to hack. Its system of encryption is transparent and famously resistant to corruption, as it operates as a decentralized structure.
However, that is not to say that the blockchain is perfect either, as it has also endured security breaches in its somewhat murky past. However, those breaches are becoming less frequent as the technology becomes increasingly robust and resilient. There is also the concern that if you tie economic value to data security “tokens”, those tokens are subject to becoming volatile, where the cost of completing a transaction can fluctuate dramatically, being highly affordable at times of low volatility and extremely expensive at times of high volatility. Furthermore, it may also become unwieldy and slow if there is limited liquidity in the market for the data security tokens, making it potentially inoperable for large data centers.
While every solution carries its own dangers, the risks associated with cloud technology are undoubtedly worth persevering through, due to its numerous silver linings.
Originally published in Counting Pips