2013 was a brutal year for society's faith in Internet security. With the NSA leaks and the huge media controversy that continue to surround Snowden's revelations, Internet users and businesses alike would not be blamed for fearing for the safety of their data online.
As a result, any data shared on the Internet has been labelled vulnerable and unreliable and subsequently, corners of the market have begun to draw away from online data storage such as Cloud. AKQA is one such business that is trialling a new Storage Connect platform that allows access to files across a business but behind a firewall.
Whilst it appears that the media have been successful in instilling fear into businesses that rely on the Internet (which let's face it, it is for most), the question we now have to ask ourselves is whether these ‘revelations' around NSA protocol are really ground breaking or have governments merely contemporised the ways in which they spy on their enemies and allies.
Administrative data scandals since the 70s, such as Watergate, go to show that government officials have been delving into confidential information for decades. If anything, the Internet has improved the transparency of what is happening.
Government agencies have the right to request that popular browsers like Google disclose information about its users. In turn, Google has been publishing transparency reports since 2010. Google's bi-annual 2013 transparency report shows that 67 percent of data requests were at least partially handed over to the British government. The United States, perhaps unsurprisingly, exceeded this by divulging between 81 to 100 percent of the data, depending on the nature of the request.
Not only have the Snowden discoveries taught us nothing new about government surveillance, but it may also be argued they have ironically created misplaced panic on the Internet. The very nature of the revelations shows that the main and most threatening weaknesses lie within companies. Snowden demonstrated how detrimental an employee with wide access to sensitive and confidential data can be to a company and in this instance, a government agency.
But the irony continues... Cloud storage now appears to be the one place that Government agencies cannot access information withheld by Snowden. British and US officials believe that he has stored further, unreleased data stating names of US and allied intelligence personnel behind a sophisticated encryption with multiple passwords. This has been said to act as his get out of jail free card as he uses the unpublished material to protect himself against arrest or physical harm.
The Snowden case is not unique to this debate. WikiLeaks is yet another illustration of how encryption can make data impenetrable and safe from hackers but not from employees. Bradley Manning, an ex-United States Army officer and releaser of the Afghan War Logs, is the only known contributor to WikiLeaks. He is now serving 35-years imprisonment after revealing to a fellow soldier that he was in possession of the documents. The encryption of WikiLeaks has remained unbroken.
Whilst it is, of course, advisable to check how secure your information is online before sharing it, perhaps it is time to look closer to home when looking for securer ways to protect our data.
Contributed by Campbell Williams, group strategy and marketing director, Six Degrees Group