Patrick Dunn is an Information Technology Consultant for small and medium businesses in the Tri-State Area
The year is 2024; Earth has been scarred by the effects of a global catastrophe and all that remain are the remnants of a world on the edge of an environmental meltdown. Governments are on the brink of collapse, foreign trade is no longer possible, and the internet has become the world's only means of communication and information. Internet and service providers have been consolidated to share their now limited resources, and the dark web has become more prevalent as times grow dire. Is this likely to happen? Who knows, I don't have a crystal ball, it's all theoretical…but possible.
In the past 14 years, the percentage of active users on the internet has gone up by over 37%. In 2019, there were estimated to be about 7.5 billion people on the planet. That’s one billion more people than in 2005. To give you an idea of how many people that is, if everyone on Earth stood in a line around the equator one foot apart, the line would wrap around the world 182 times. Granted, there would be a lot of wet people.
Out of that population count, the International Telecommunications Union estimates that 86.6% of those people in 2019 were using the internet. That’s 6.4 billion users accessing the world wide web, and over 3.6 billion of those users are using cloud computing services. For those of you that are still in the dark, that’s like a public storage facility for 3.6 billion people.
Global Internet Usage
Is a Public Cloud Safe?
Let's pretend that the storage facility model applies to this scenario. We have 3.6 billion storage units in a facility. All the customers have the access code to the facility, while the storage units inside all have their own individual keys; one for the landlord, and one for the customer. Every day, the customer visits their unit taking some things out, putting some things in, hanging around for a little while, then hitting social media for a few memes. The clients become so comfortable with going back and forth multiple times a day with essential belongings that determine their identity as a person that it becomes casual. In the beginning, they were skeptical about the safety of their belongings, if they could trust the security of the facility holding them, and as time passed and they became more comfortable, it wasn't something they even thought about anymore.
Now comes along some shady person who manages to sneak into the facility, cuts the power to the security cameras and alarms, and starts snooping in everyone's storage unit. Taking a few things from here, a few things from there, and leaves before anyone even notices their belongings are taken. The next day, the facility realizes there's been a breach. To mitigate losing all their clients, they keep it hush-hush for the most part. Quietly, they start looking to see what units were broken into and how this happened. They have a pretty nice insurance policy, so if anyone comes up and says their grandmother's painting is gone, they can cover them…somewhat, but that’s not the real issue. Later on, one of the clients sees grandma's painting is on a website for sale, then another client finds their belongings for sale, and another, and another, and another. Before you know it, everyone realizes they've had something stolen and it's now for sale to the highest bidder and there is nothing they can do about it.
In the real world, we're not talking about storage units and ninjas that hop the fence into the facility raiding everyone's goodies. What we're talking about is 3.6 billion users information regarding credit, income, family members, 401ks, and banking information all stored in a publicly shared cloud that can be accessed from any device with access to the internet.
Now I'm not trying to freak you out; the security of some of these cloud services is tougher than anything most hackers can crack, but it's not impossible and it's only a matter of time before there is a breach to one of these huge companies again. Need I say what happened to the customers of Capital One who still are getting flagged for identity theft? It was some bad ju-ju.
I'm not here telling you to go grab all your information and pull it off the public cloud and store it in a hard drive in your safe, but what I am recommending is you look at what information you have up there. I'm sure there are plenty of things that you'd feel uncomfortable having someone else have the POSSIBILITY of being able to access.
Where do I keep my data then? What do I do with grandmas painting? Let me ask you a better question; where do you keep your stock certificates and bonds, your birth certificate, or your social security card? Keep it in a shoebox in your office? I'm sure some of you do, but I’d like to think most of you don’t.
How Does a Private Cloud Work?
Private clouds act very similarly to a safety deposit box or a home safe. It's like having your own personal storage facility and storage unit. The security of the private cloud isn't stretched across billions of units, it's dedicated to your facility, your cloud, monitoring every Joe somebody that tries to come in; no more ninjas.
In technical terms, your private cloud is what's called a "single-tenant environment," meaning your cloud is not sharing resources with any other user. The security protocols associated with your cloud are for you and you only, and the only person who can gain access to your cloud's environment is determined by the user. Companies will utilize private cloud services by purchasing or renting storage in a data-center, while individuals can purchase at-home storage devices that connect to the internet and allow you access from anywhere. Additionally, there are private companies that allow you to rent personal storage much like a company would, and it's very affordable.
Private clouds are even cheaper long-term in most cases compared to the public cloud, and it's exclusivity to your data and information with its dedicated security outweigh the price. For those of you that take having your information staying secure very seriously, there is no better option…other than the hard drive in your safe. Not too easy to access regularly, however, and certainly not from any of your devices when you need it.
How does this relate to a global catastrophe? It doesn't, I just wanted to grab your attention, but the threat of your information showing up on the dark web if another major breach occurs is very real. People pay a lot of money to retain that once it's leaked. As for the cloud, their popularity will continue to increase, but the security risks will go up. Today, more and more companies are offering private clouds to their customers at affordable prices. If you really like grandma's painting, I think you should be more careful where you keep it.