Be Careful Where You Trust Your Data in the Cloud

As authorities escalate their crack down on digital piracy, users need to rethink where they store their personal data in the cloud.

In January 2012, millions of users were caught off guard when Megaupload was shut down by federal authorities. Megaupload was a cloud based file sharing site that allowed users to upload and download large files directly from MegaUpload servers, instead of using P2P or torrents. Users could also stream live video files through their affiliated site MegaVideo, as well as download the source file. Collectively, Megaupload and its affiliated sites (Megavideo, Megalive, Megabox and Megaporn) drew in 50 million visitors a day and accounted for 4% of internet usage.

Although Megaupload described itself as a site to store large quantities of data, federal authorities allege that the site was used for sharing copyright material, costing copyright holders upwards of $500 million in lost revenue. During the investigation, authorities seized 25 petabytes of data, including the personal files of all Megaupload users. Millions of Megaupload users lost access to their files with no warning, and there is still no agreement on how former users can retrieve their data. This all serves as a timely reminder to users that they must be careful where they trust their data in the cloud.

Megaupload also served as an important lesson to other file-sharing sites, which have become more risk-averse to potential copyright infringement. Just last month, Dropbox severed ties with Boxopus, an application that allowed users to download torrents directly into their Dropbox account, without the need to install a BitTorrent client on their computer. Their decision to terminate Boxopus’s API access was made on the belief that the application “could be perceived as encouraging users to violate copyright using Dropbox.” Boxopus is now trying to salvage what it can by partnering with other cloud solutions like, Google Drive and SugarSync. However, it is yet to be seen if any of these providers will take a similar stance to Dropbox.

While the technology of Boxopus and other BitTorrent sites is perfectly legal, the legitimacy of its use has been aggressively litigated in courts world-wide. In April 2012, the British High Court took drastic action against The Pirate Bay, ordering it be blocked by five major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media. India soon followed suit, banning The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents, BitSnoop and other large BitTorrent websites through two major ISPs. This ban, however, was lifted last month.

If these examples are anything to go by, it’s clear that the crackdown on digital piracy has reached new heights. Increased scrutiny into the operations of file-sharing sites is forcing many to exercise greater caution. If a site is even perceived as facilitating copyright infringement it can be seized or blocked. Users therefore need to be mindful of where they store their personal files in the cloud to mitigate the risk of lost data.

3 Tips for Choosing a Personal Cloud Solution

1) Don’t ignore reputation. If the site you use is primarily used for the purpose of sharing pirated material, then look for an alternative. Keep in mind that they are not going to promote the fact that they share pirated material on the front end of their site. This may be offered out the back end, through third-party sites that contain secret links.
2) Back-up elsewhere. If you store or distribute your own legitimate files through a cloud service that allegedly relies on piracy for a big part of its revenue, it is wise to back up elsewhere. They may be next on the Department of Justice’s hit list.
3) Switch to a trusted provider. Use a trusted and well-known provider without any obvious connections to piracy. Check their Terms and Conditions to verify their stance on copyright infringement.

Choosing a Corporate Cloud Solution
When it comes to storing confidential corporate documents online, users need to exercise even greater vigilance. Corporations need a secure document sharing solution that gives them complete control over their most sensitive information. Generic document sharing providers, like Dropbox and Google Drive, offer a convenient way to access documents from anywhere. However, they often lack the sophisticated security features required by business users, like role-based access to documents and data encryption. Specialized document sharing solutions offer a far more secure alternative for business users because they are designed with specific business processes in mind. View our recent infographic to learn more about the differences between generic vs. specialized document sharing providers.

Debbie Stephenson

Debbie Stephenson is a former Content Marketing Manager at Firmex.