Exploring the Risks of Free and Cloud Services

free cloud risks

The evolution of technology has brought us many opportunities. Among them, the benefits of next-generation services like cloud computing and offers of free and almost unlimited storage with every email account we decide to sign up with.

This abundance of space has allowed us to keep working long after the office has closed, and keep playing for much longer than we should. But is the cloud and free online offerings really all sunshine and roses?

Technology Isn’t the Only Thing Which Has Evolved

As new technology is produced to replace the outdated, business and individuals are running to catch up. But so too are cyber criminals who lurk around every virtual corner. The goal of some is to steal your identity; the goal of others, to simply be able to say that they did it before someone else. But regardless of the motivation, the effects of cyber crime translate into millions of dollars in lawsuits and systems recovery each year, not to mention real and personal damage.

In addition to the evolution of the cyber criminal element are the industries who are realizing the potential of the online world. These industries understand that getting their message out online no longer means only revenue from those in their own communities, but those around the world as well. And in an effort to reach them all are ads on every web page, e-mail client and in every program that’s downloaded.

It can be difficult to spot the risks of cloud computing and free online services amidst the celebration of all that is good about them. But not understanding the risks of each can mean false security, and a possible tendency to over-expose sensitive information.

The Reality of Risk

The theft of data is a constant threat and serious risk of the cloud computing environment. And it’s largely due to the size of the environment. The bigger a fortress, the more attempts there will be to breach it. But even so, more companies every day are choosing to place their sensitive information in the cloud.

Data loss is another huge risk of using the cloud, as this environment puts companies and the data they upload at the mercy of the cloud provider. What happens should that provider’s servers experience an unprecedented crash that sees all uploaded data, plus any backup of that data, lost forever?

Espionage is a definite possibility, both with free and cloud services. Although the ability to instantly transmit information and data to a recipient via cloud or video offers the ultimate in convenience, one needs to be aware that other data is also being transmitted. Information like IP addresses, call duration, computer equipment used, and participant location can all be gleaned from any cloud or online video session. If not a hacker looking to notch their belt with their latest exploit, then perhaps a spy for a competing company, who waits in the wings, just waiting for the needed missing puzzle piece to be spoken or uploaded. And many online messaging companies and cloud services simply cannot guarantee the anonymity of the information that’s being transmitted.

For companies trying to reach a new market by advertising online and offering free incentives like storage, calling or messaging, buyer beware, as there is still a price to be paid. A simple agreement to sign up for services can also mean an agreement that your browsing habits and personal preferences become fodder for other companies who are themselves trying to reach a wider audience. With personal data passing through so many pairs of virtual hands, there’s no telling where it will end up, or whether that recipient will give that data the respect it deserves.

Many discussions about the usage of personal information by companies can be found online. The best course of action is to find those discussions, and use them to complement existing knowledge of the real risks of cloud storage and free online services.

About the Author: Guest author Sarah Dickson writes on a variety of subjects, particularly related to technology.  She has assembled information on how consumers can locate internet providers in Mesa.

Image by Primus Inter Pares

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