anti-cloud
Cloud Computing Security

Weaning Ourselves Off Cloud Giants is Key to Protecting Privacy

The internet as we know it is centralised, meaning that a staggering amount of the data flows through a small number of corporations, such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Google, for example, accounts for around 40% of all internet traffic.

As exposed by Snowden, the NSA and other surveillance agencies collect our personal and private data through a variety of arrangements with these companies. Sometimes these are formal arrangements, and sometimes they are not, as we discovered recently when it was revealed that the US government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it refused to hand over user data.

With data flow contained by this centralised nature of the internet, our privacy and the security of businesses are constantly at risk, especially when the companies holding our data are under so much pressure to share it with the powers that be.

People and businesses essentially become dependent on one or two main players in the market and the risk is not appropriately diversified.

One solution to this is to make the internet more like it used to be — less centralised and more distributed.

To spread the security risk and protect privacy, people are opting to store data on proprietary company infrastructure (as opposed to Dropbox, for example). Decentralised peer-to-peer payment methods like Bitcoin are also growing in popularity. Innovation in messaging systems also reflecting what is happening in payments, for example BitTorrent’s Bleep is a recently released decentralised messaging system.

The blockchain technology, which started cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin), has the potential to disrupt and decentralise the whole internet too. It is fundamental not only to Bitcoin, but also to the Ethereum project where it is used to support a platform for developers to build and distribute decentralised applications.

The most centralised system is DNS (Domain Name System), a hierarchical naming system for computers or any resource connected to the internet. Essentially, this is in the hands of top-level domain (TLD) administrators. Compromising the DNS TLDs can essentially kill the whole internet as everyone is using domains instead of the IP addresses to connect to various services.

Properly implemented cryptography, decentralised payments and secure, self-hosted solutions will help protect security online and keep data safe from the prying eyes of cyber security agencies. However, it is tricky to make them as easy-to-use and seductive as a Gmail account, so gaining mainstream adoption is a challenge.

Redecentralize.org is one campaign leading the charge to raise awareness of the dangers of a centralized internet and the associated security risks. As privacy concerns grow, more and more people are listening to what they have to say and moving data away from the central players, choosing not to rely on services like Google Analytics, iCloud and Dropbox. This trend is also a great opportunity for startups to create new technologies to help decentralise the internet and help businesses protect their privacy online.

 

Maciej Zawadziński is co-founder of Piwik PRO

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