Many of our daily activities use technology and computers. We make calls and send text messages using our phones. We send email instead of writing memos and sending letters. We share vast amounts of information on computer networks every day, assuming that our information is safe and secure.
And yet when we stop and think about it, we become nervous about storing information on computers, and rightfully so. “It’s in the cloud” makes many of us anxious because we don’t know exactly where our information in stored, and as a result we believe that it’s inherently insecure.
You may think that paper is the safest way to store information because it’s safe from hackers. But this is a false sense of security. As recently as ten years ago identify theft was done by stealing your mail; that is, paper bills and statements stolen from your post box.
Paper can be copied, without your knowledge, and no one can tell if or when it was copied. Copy machines and scanners store images of paper documents on their hard drives, frequently overlooked by those who use the copier. Scanned images of documents are stored on computer networks, typically with little or no security whatsoever. And a document left in plain view – either a physical desk or a file server – is visible to, and can be read by, anyone passing by.
We can use the features of a home security system to explain how digital information stored on a computer can be more secure than paper, and how digital information stored in a properly designed cloud-based computer system can be a safe place to store information in this digital age.
You feel pretty secure in your own home. After all, your doors and windows are locked. As a smart homeowner, you installed automatic flood lights in your yards, activated when someone walks by. You even invested in a monitored alarm system, so someone is always watching out for your protection. Finally, good old “Fido” will scare off any intruder smart and bold enough to gain entry.
Computer security and “the cloud” are even more secure. Your computer and network each have a firewall, which is like your door and window locks, keeping out most intruders. Intrusion prevention systems are added locks keeping out intruders. Intrusion detection systems are like the alarm monitor watching for intrusions and immediately taking action against them. Consider your security technician as “Fido” keeping watch, monitoring, securing against and reporting any intrusion.
Documents kept in your house are probably written in readable language as no one uses encryption code to write letters, pay bills or receive invoices. So if an intruder does make it inside he has complete access to your information. However, digital information stored on a computer can be encrypted when it’s saved on the disk, meaning that even if an intruder makes it through all the layers of security and manages to open or take the file, it’s unreadable. And access to the digital files can be logged in an audit trail, while access to paper documents is rarely recorded. Even hackers leave an audit trail. Paper thieves rarely leave fingerprints.
“The cloud” is no mysterious place. It is simply one way of referring to a collection of computers on a network (such as the Internet) that can be accessed from anywhere. Every computer that has a network connection is conceivably part of “the cloud.” Your office is probably using the cloud today by storing and processing electronic data using a third-party data center or server farm.
As you can see, digital information stored on a computer – even a computer “in the cloud” – can be more secure than paper.