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Quick Note: The Cloud, File Sharing, and Risk

January 22, 2012

We have all read about the demise of the Megaupload site, on which large files could be stored and shared, often not quite legally. Yesterday, Megaupload was unceremoniously seized, with numerous indictments issued against its ownership and management. Today’s Quite Note discusses’s coverage of this from the perspective of risks to users of such sites. The coverage is contained in ExtremeTech’s post titled “Megaupload’s demise: What happens to your files when a cloud service dies?” The article fundamentally asks “This huge indictment poses many questions, but today we’re going to look at just one of them: What happens to all of those files that people had stored on Megaupload’s servers?”  [all italics are mind, and are added to emphasize quotations taken directly from the article]

The emphasis of the article can be summed up in this paragraph:

It is possible that Megaupload’s servers will be brought back online, but only if Megaupload and its employees are found innocent — and in all likelihood, the trial and sentencing process will take months. Even if Megaupload does return, there’s no guarantee that your files will still be there.

The author of the article, Sebastian Anthony, does an excellent job of spotlighting the issues associated with cloud file services. He tells us “There have always been two major concerns about cloud services in general, and cloud storage (Dropbox, Megaupload, SkyDrive, iCloud, and so on). The first is privacy: When you upload data to a third party, there’s always the risk that they can look at the contents of your files. Some cloud providers securely encrypt data, but many don’t. The second issue is data security and integrity.”

He goes on to ask “So, what happens to my files when a cloud service dies?” And goes on to provide a comprehensive answer, which I’ve sliced and diced into these little tidbits:

  • In Megaupload’s case, where some 1,000 servers (and thousands of hard drives) were seized, the Feds will probably pore through your files looking for evidence that improves their chance of a conviction.
  • For consumer-oriented services that are more aboutbackup than file sharing — Backblaze, for example — your files would probably remain in the digital ether, encrypted for all eternity.
  • Finally, at the enterprise level — Azure, AWS, Rackspace, etc. — it’s likely that you would be given ample opportunity to recover your files.

The article is insightful, helpful, accurate and well-written. It is definitely worth the few minutes it will take to read.

One Comment
  1. was blocked and so I have lost about £35 in my subscription. Am I the only person nervous that the USA charged MegaUplaod web owners in New Zealand?

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