To paraphrase an old public service announcement, do you know where your data is? With the popularity of cloud services such as iCloud, Google Drive, Amazon CloudDrive, and Dropbox on the rise, it is quite difficult to pinpoint where our data is located at any given time.
Moreover, it seems that cloud services are common targets of hackers to attempt to gain personal information. These hackers could be individuals or government agencies, in particular, China. In a recent report, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned congress that the Chinese government could target American citizens and businesses that utilize cloud services.
Espionage is the name of the game and it is happening all over the world. However, it seems that China has geared up to take cyber-espionage against the U.S. to the next level, according to the report. The report states that this gearing up “may present cybersecurity risks for U.S. users and providers of cloud computing services.”
Moreover, the Chinese agency that is preparing for this cyber-war, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), has close ties to the Chongqing Special Cloud Computing Zone. The report feels that these ties could represent “a potential espionage threat to foreign companies that might use cloud computing services provided from the zone or base operations there”.
If the Chinese would execute such an attack, who would be at risk? Believe it or not, many of the companies that we recognize as major players utilize or plan to utilize cloud services in China. According to the Global Post, two major players in the industry that have announced partnerships with the Chinese are Microsoft and IBM.
Microsoft contends that they will not house American data on Chinese servers. Another familiar face in the tech world that has a cloud data center in China is Dell. They announced in 2011 that the company “opened a data center in Shanghai…to host public and private clouds and to provide customers with off-premise application and storage services”. Nevertheless, some piece of mind can be gained through the knowledge that the big three, Google Drive, iTunes, and DropBox, are all American based.
Ramifications of Cyber-Spying
Even though these companies are American based, we should not really become too complacent; especially with the recent revelations made by Edward Snowden about NSA backdoors in many of the products and services that Americans use. With NASA backdoors in mind, who can Americans trust with their data? The answer is no one but themselves.
Is it really possible to create and own your own cloud? Yes it it is. There are several options out there; however, an up and coming player in the roll your own cloud is ownCloud. The company describes itself as “a platform to easily view & sync your contacts, calendars and bookmarks across all your devices and enables basic editing right on the web”.
The company started out as an open source project allowing the people to be in complete control over their data that is out on the cloud. This is done by creating your very own cloud service. This sounds technical, but after a quick review of the install guide, ownCloud makes it quite simple.
When it comes to cyber-spying, the U.S. and China has had a strained relationship at best. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report should not really come as a surprise to anyone. Furthermore, when it come to cyber-spying, the U.S. accusations against the Chinese borders on the pot calling the kettle black. The only way to keep our data safe is to keep it off the cloud. However, if you must use the cloud, the best option is to roll your own!