Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Your E-Mail, Wikileaks and the Cloud

E-mail made news twice in February and both incidents should send shivers up your spine.

The most recent incident was Feb. 28 when 38,000 Gmail users could not find their e-mails. That was a fraction of total Gmail users, but that didn't matter if it was YOU and your e-mail disappeared.

Google engineers were still trying to figure out what went wrong three days after the bazaar disappearance. Most, if not all Gmail users had their e-mail restored within 24-hours.

The other heart-stopping story began earlier in February, when hackers, who call themselves "Anonymous" broke into the computers of HBGary Federal, a government contractor.

They stole thousands of employee and company e-mails and then posted them on a "searchable" Web site, much like Wikileaks has done with government documents.

The people behind Anonymous are apparent supporters of Wikileaks and the CEO of HBGary Federal, Arron Barr had tried to discredit Wikileaks and then threatened to publicly expose the people behind Anonymous.

So they struck first.

Here's the problem: Losing your e-mail is one thing, but what Anonymous did to HBGary Federal, they or others like them, can do to YOU and/or your organization. Just think about some of the e-mails you've written and saved and what they might look like to the wrong audience? Or, what about e-mails your staff or employees may have written about your organization or you?

Now, let's go back to the Gmail problem.

In the wake of the "lost" Gmails, there has been new interest in backing up more and more digital material on so-called "cloud based" systems. I work with some very intelligent computer specialists, who brag about the "cloud" and all of its possibilities. They, and others like them, believe their information is accessible at any time, from anywhere...and I fear they could be wrong.

Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says, "We think of cloud computing as a bunch of clouds. They're fluffy and white, but it's actually other people's computers and other people's computers can go down."

In fact, my great concern is that those "other people's computers" can be hacked and your important documents and e-mail can be stolen from there, too.

This month has motivated me to move my "saved" e-mails from my computer to an off-line hard drive storage device, along with all my other sensitive client documents.

Think about it!

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