OpinionTechnology

The sky is crying: a dissenting opinion about cloud storage

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“The sky is crying” is a blues song that was written by Elmore James in 1959. Eric Clapton’s cover starts out like this:

The sky is crying
Look at the tears roll down the streets
The sky is crying
Look at the tears roll down the streets
I looked out my window
The rain was falling down in sheets

JStone / Shutterstock.com

JStone / Shutterstock.com

Sorry, Eric, the sky isn’t crying. Those tears are from the people whose cloud-stored data, documents, photographs, personal information and other files have been, are being and will be hacked. The security breaches are ongoing, and they will never end.

History lesson 1  

On Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1971, I walked into a computer lab for the first time. The lab was a 12-by-15-foot room containing three ASR-33 teletypes along with their accompanying paper tape punches, paper tape readers, acoustic coupler modems and rotary dial telephones.

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The teletypes, modems and phones allowed us (eight 17-year-old high school seniors) to access the big mainframe computer at Wayne State University.

We soon faced two facts:

1. Writing code took hours of computer time.
2. Our computer time was restricted to regular school hours only.

We could use the teletypes during computer class, study halls and lunch hours, but not after school. The time restrictions were enforced by locks installed on the rotary dials of the telephones.

Because we couldn’t dial the phones, we couldn’t connect to the mainframe, and we couldn’t work on our coding assignments. That situation was intolerable.

We took the problem in hand, and by Friday we had determined that we could mimic the clicks of the rotary dialer by tapping the hang-up buttons on top of the phone.

Eureka! We could access the mainframe as needed, and ever since then I’ve been telling folks not to trust their data to computer security of any sort.

The current century

Recently, people who should know better have been running commercials on television encouraging viewers to move software and data to the advertised cloud service.

Also, in the past two months, a major online news service has run articles encouraging readers to move all their software and data to one cloud or another. They give such excellent reasons as, “Everyone is doing it,” “It’s fun,” and “I don’t care if my data gets hacked.”

Well, I do care if my data gets hacked, so in rebuttal to the above, I submit these recent cloud security breaches and what was stolen:

  1. Apple’s iCloud: photos of celebrities in various stages of dress, etc.
  2. Sony Pictures: everything about Sony Pictures.
  3. Dropbox: users’ emails and passwords.
  4. Google Drive: stored personal and corporate information.
  5. Amazon Web Services (AWS): attempted extortion by hackers that resulted in the company Code Spaces being forced out of business within 24 hours of the breach.
  6. Microsoft: Offline Address Book information for the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
  7. Adobe: Adobe IDs, encrypted customer credit card records, and login data.
  8. Evernote: 50 million usernames, associated email addresses and encrypted passwords.
  9. Evernote Forum: 160,000 member profiles, passwords, email addresses and birth dates.

Look at the list again: Apple, Sony, Dropbox, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe and Evernote (twice!).  These are eight of the big boys in the business-tech world.

They all have lots of money, lots of advertising and lots of tech people. They all operate cloud services — and they were all hacked.

Whether the security breach was caused by brute force, clever coding, phishing, user incompetence, user laziness or someone’s dog — the security was breached. And it will continue to be breached — always.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not recommending anything, I am telling you flat out to remove your software and files from whatever cloud or Web service you are using. The bad guys are way ahead of the good guys — where they will stay and successfully hack, forever.

“But why will the bad guys stay ahead?” you ask.

History lesson 2

On March 14, 1952, admitted thief Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. He replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Capisce?

David Redic has worked as a programmer, data analyst, website builder, tech writer, educational filmmaker and IT director. He is currently the webmaster at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Kovack Realtors.

Email David Redic.


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