VPNs Offer Protection, but Cloud Services Present Unique Threats to Privacy
Cloud services are all the rage right now. They do have some real benefits. They make it easy to access files and information from anywhere and make sharing a breeze. They also make it possible to get a lot of cheap, protected storage in a datacenter that provides regular backups and plenty of security.
The problem, however, is that some of that information may still be vulnerable, particularly to privacy threats such as the NSA PRISM program and other government spying efforts.
Is It Possible to Be Safe Online?
In an interview on Schneier.com, security analyst Brue Schneier offered some insight on the current state of online privacy. The summary: It is still possible to stay reasonably secure online, but there are some issues that really do make it much harder than it should be.
More and more people are moving to cloud services. These don’t just include cloud storage services. For instance, Google Calendar and Gmail both have plenty of user information on their customers that they use already. If you doubt that, take a look at your sidebars on your Gmail interface and you’ll see that there are plenty of ads tailored to what your email reveals about you.
That information is subject to being accessed by government agencies and, potentially, others, and that means that cloud services do carry with them some inherent risk. While cloud service users may not be particularly cognizant of this risk as of yet, they are catching on to how they can protect their privacy in other ways.
One of the ways that users still can protect their privacy online is to use a VPN service. According to an article in Silicon Angle, VPN usage has gone up over recent months and many of the people who signed up for the service—IVPN did the research that collected this data—were worried about government overreach and privacy violations, including the Patriot Act and SOPA.
There is good reason to be worried about those programs, as recent revelations in the media have made readily apparent. Where cloud services are concerned, there are always risks. There are encrypted storage services available, some of them through the same providers who offer VPN and other services, that may mitigate this risk. Until then, VPN is a good option and it’s always good to be careful with what you store and do on any of the cloud services that have become so popular recently.