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2012-366 Day 179 – The Cloud

Spent most of the day at the second annual IT fair on campus, which featured a couple speakers, some vendor booths, lunch, and a raffle (which I did not win). The first speaker spent a bit over an hour discussing the Cloud, saying what it was, what the benefits and drawbacks were, and attempting to answer the question “Is information on the Cloud private?” (Short answer, no.) Most of this information I knew already, but the speaker was pretty good and it was nice to have a refresher. The second speaker was essentially a 45 minute commercial for Google’s products (which in the meantime I broke the Google Play and Gmail apps on my tablet while doing an update, I was tempted to ask her to fix it afterwards. Sadly she was in PR and not IT, so I doubt it would have got me far).

The Cloud discussion (especially the privacy portion) reminded me that I should take a post and write down the speech I give to my students every semester (well, not verbatim, but just get the ideas out there). A quick sidebar for those of you wondering: the general definition of the Cloud is any information that you store on the internet where you do not control the servers or storage space. Most often people using the cloud are using a product provided by Amazon, Google, or Apple, with newer companies like Dropbox coming on fast. With some understanding of the construction (obviously those in my class would have a bit more background) of the Internet, and, in this case, the Cloud, you can begin to talk about privacy. The privacy discussion, however, has actually been around since the start of the internet and ties closely into privacy concerns and email or text messaging.

How’s that, you ask? Keep in mind how email and text messaging work and how that ties into the Cloud. Emails and texts both go to a central server before being rerouted to the recipient (in email’s case, it’s actually two servers, your sending server and the recipient’s receiving server). It is rare that you have control over either server, and that means that someone else has setup and controls the information flowing through that server. It is trivial for them to copy all information going through that server, and requires only a bit more time to mine that information. Economies of scale do help privacy in this case, it is far less likely that Google will be individually noting all activity across all of gmail than someone’s self stood up email server. The same thing with text messages, except this time you are guaranteed not to have control over the server in question. This applies to the Cloud as well, whatever you place on it, the server has an IT guy who has access to your information. Whether or not they ever do anything with that information is merely a question of interest, not ability.

So do we panic and pull everything off the web? The speaker today and myself both have the same conclusion: no. Just realize that everything you place in an email, send in a text, or store in the cloud should be treated as public information because it easily could become just that. If you have a deep, burning secret, you should never place it in one of these repositories, because the copies that are generated can easily get beyond your control. About the only safe way to transmit or store any information like this is to encrypt it before it goes into the mechanisms involved, which adds another layer for any snoops to crack (granted, if it is weak encryption, it will be cracked).

So, as I tell my students every semester, never put anything in an email, text, or on the cloud that you are not ready to have brought out in public. The odds of anything coming out accidentally are pretty small, but they do exist. And if you are involved in anything shady, those odds go up substantially, as suddenly the people coming after you can ask for those copies that the companies control and not just get them directly from you.

Speaking of proprietary information (sort of), let me save you 65 dollars should your pet ever decide to chew open a glow necklace and eat the contents (Yes, this information should go in the Stupid Cat post, but I keep forgetting to write it down and I’m not going to make you go back to look at an updated post when you’re already here). The liquid inside a glow necklace is generally not toxic, give your pet (in our case the cat) some milk, wet food, or tuna juice to help cut the flavor. Make sure they don’t have any on their fur so they don’t reacquire it later. As long as the pet isn’t throwing up repeatedly, they should be fine and it will pass.

There, now you can save your money rather than calling the ASPCA poison extortion (er, control) line. Keep an eye on your pet though, and take them into the vet if any other symptoms occur, as I am not responsible for anything else going on with your situation. (Is it sad that I felt I need to put a disclaimer here on the off chance that someone discovers this blog and something else is wrong with it but tries to blame me? I actually considered pulling the section altogether when I thought of that.)

Weight: 229 Loss: 11 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 183.5 miles
Volleyball Match Record: 3-0 (7-2 Game Record, +17 Point Differential)
Fitocracy Level: 22 ID: disciplev1

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  1. Jess said

    Speaking of data mining, Living social and groupon really need to work on theirs. This week I have received deals for deep-sea fishing, botox injections, and speed dating.

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