User Input

User Input: Don’t Drink The Water

Every week, there is tech news somewhere about some place getting hacked and someone’s dirty underwear potentially being exposed to French freedom fighters or Swedish file sharing gurus. Sometimes it’s just hilariously embarrassing, like HBGary getting rooted in what turned out to be a fairly straightforward social engineering exercise. Sometimes it’s the kind of PR disaster that spreads to even the least elite of the tech community, like Sony’s Playstation network hemorrhaging everybody’s mom’s credit card numbers. Sometimes you don’t even have to get hacked to get in hot water. This week, fell under investigation when it was revealed that’s employees have access to the users’ private keys, meaning if you use Dropbox, their staff can snoop on your files on a whim.

The “cloud” is the big buzz today, and it’s almost impossible to avoid it. Between Facebook and Google, the Internet itself knows more about you than you do. Both Apple and Microsoft are hawking cloud solutions for backing up your PC, along with countless competitors encouraging you to give them your data. I’m pretty sure that there are more pictures of me on Facebook than I have in my own possession, and I don’t even have a Facebook account.

Do you trust any of your files and data to the cloud willingly, or are you living off the Web 2.0 grid?

[“User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • SSurfer321

    I utilize LastPass for password storage.
    They had a network anomaly the other week and shut the whole thing down, just in case. Yes it was inconvenient but they reacted properly and had a work around solution up in a matter of hours. They had security back up, fully functional after one or two days. No word yet as to whether any actual data was lost in the anomaly.

  • P161911

    I try to only put out into cyberspace what I want to be public knowledge. I post photos to Facebook or Flickr, but only ones I wouldn't mind sharing with the world and try to avoid being in anybody else photos that would get posted. Even then my photos are still stored on a HD on my desk too.

  • I have a Dropbox account, and use it primarily for holding the encrypted data file for my Keepass software. Other than that, I have a few documents on there that I want to be able to access from home or work, but nothing significant.

    I've resisted doing too much in the cloud. People can swear up and down that it's safe, but every time I turn around someone else is getting hacked. I know there is a lot about me out on the web, and I try to manage that information as best I can.

    It is interesting the philosophy on privacy today vs. just 20 years ago. It's also interesting what people worry about being out on the web vs. what can really happen with that information. Sometimes it seems people get worked up over having your license plate number in a picture, but then turn around and tell Amazon to keep their credit card number.

    • skitter

      I feel like any checkout that makes me create an account is taking information by force. I could always do without whatever it is, but I when I weigh my careful research and minimalist buying habits against paranoia, as with Terms and Conditions, often I swallow the bitter pill because I want the end product. The idea that the only necessary action is an exchange of money for wares is completely lost on most computer systems and their often helpless operators.

  • johnnymac09

    It is a scary world out there! Unfortunately, you have to put trust in these products if you want to take advantage of their offerings. Sure you could avoid things like facebook, but that doesn't stop facebook about knowing who you are through your friends who are on their service. And if you want Netflix on your PS3 you need to login to the PSN. There are just so many advantages to all the offerings in the cloud that you can't resist everything.

    Unless of course you try to forget that the last 30 years in technology innovation has happened.

    • P161911

      Actually there is a way around logging into PSN for Netflix. Not trying to plug or spam anything but I bought the program from and love it. I can watch HULU and a whole bunch of other stuff on the PS3, XBOX360 or Wii (doesn't work as well as the other 2).

      • johnnymac09

        Playon is cool, if you have a Windows computer, and Hulu is great if you live in the US. Niether of which apply to me.

  • Cloud computing? Heck, I don't even want you guys figuring out who I am, much less the rest of the world.

    • Yet, you posted a link to the University article about you?

      • I'm still working out some of the details on how best to maintain privacy.

    • Alff

      Dang, you're the one guy on this site that I know something about. Just sayin'.

  • I have a good portion of my family photos backed up to the cloud. They're encrypted where they lay, but I know they could still be intercepted in transit. However, I'm really not that concerned. If somebody can figure out how to damage me with a photo of the pontoon boat we rented at the lake last summer or one of our now-deceased cats, I'll be really impressed. On the other hand, Turbotax files? Quicken backups? That's what USB flash drives and fire safes are for.

    Besides, I've got very few assets, no real power to speak of, and not much of a public presence. Somebody would have to have very bad judgement to deliberately choose me as a lucrative hack target. So it comes down to random odds: I'm John Q. Public — there are 20 million others just like me and if they get me, it will have more to do with bad luck than my online photo drive. Don't get me wrong, I do try to think defensively, but in the end, I should be more worried about being successfully phished by a convincing e-mail than anything else more low-level.

    • dmilligan

      I'm pretty much of the same mind as you – I really have nothing of value to anyone else, so who would waste their time trying to hack me? Any financial or personal info goes onto offline backups where they belong. I try to keep a very low online profile if for no other reason than to keep the amount of spam email to a minimum. I also don't do Facebook mainly because their security and privacy policies are so effed up.

      • I do Facebook, but I have some very stringent criteria for who gets "friended," and I am pretty generic in what I am willing to post.

      • tonyola

        Same here. I don't do Facebook or Twitter and I try to keep as much personal info out of the cloud as possible. I don't even keep any passwords saved on my PC except as backup text files.

  • Number_Six

    Ever since an admin person at a university I worked at overseas gave a copy of my passport to an Asian recruiter, my passport has been the first thing you see when you gewgle me. If I try to escape the cloud now, I'll still have a few thousand people running around with my ID. I kind of like this because it means I'll live on as spies long after my corpse has been donated to the circus.