On TechStuff, Chris and I have talked about cloud storage at length. There are many factors to consider before you decide to use cloud storage. The advantages are many — you can access your data on Internet-capable devices as long as you have the right login information. Offloading storage to another company frees up space on local drives. And storage companies are supposed to be secure and offer redundancy. But there are drawbacks too. If you lose Internet access for whatever reason, you lose access to your data. If the storage company goes out of business, your data could disappear too. And sometimes companies aren’t as secure as you think they may be. According to a report in The Register, that’s the case with CyberLynk. And it all comes down to a disgruntled former employee of an animation studio.
Here’s the story: CyberLynk managers fired an employee named Michael Scott Jewson. A month later, Jewson logged into CyberLynk’s system and wiped out approximately 304 gigabytes of data. Part of that belonged to WeR1 World Network, a television production and distribution company. The data included a full season of a Hawaiian television show for kids called “Zodiac Island.” According to The Register, a CyberLynk executive admits that much of the data is unrecoverable.
Clearly, CyberLynk’s security practices weren’t sufficient. Upon terminating Jewson’s employment, managers should have ensured that Jewson wouldn’t have any access to CyberLynk’s system. But The Register also points out the storage company failed to have backups of customer data stored either on redundant systems or on tape. Should CyberLynk be punished for not having sufficient backup systems?
It’s a tricky question. On the one hand, customers have an expectation that their data will be secure within a storage company’s system. On the other, if someone gives the order to delete data, the storage company has to follow through on the request. There are many kinds of corporate data that must be destroyed after a certain amount of time has passed. If you store your data in the cloud, you trust that the company hosting your information will do the right thing and delete it when you give the order. If that data were to still exist after you delete it, you could get into serious trouble. So cloud storage companies have to design systems that allow them to keep data safe and recoverable while still following protocol and destroying data when ordered to do so.
There are ways to achieve this goal. Cloud storage companies can include procedures that customers must follow to ensure that all copies of a particular file are deleted. Think of it like the classic science fiction trope of the self-destruct sequence — the system must receive confirmation from a trusted source before wiping out all the data.
It’s just one more example of the pitfalls you can encounter while using cloud storage. Is it likely to happen to you? Probably not. But it’s something to think about.