Private and Secure Cloud Storage Alternatives to Dropbox and Google Drive
We store everything on the cloud. From treasured family photo albums, to music and films, to secure tax documents, a huge amount of our life rests in off-site storage containers in what is probably the greatest show of unrequited trust in human history. Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox — these tools have become nearly ubiquitous with being a functioning member of society. But these technologies also come at a price.
The big tech companies all have major pitfalls in one area or another of data privacy. Out of all of them, Apple does the best, though despite it’s repeated insistence on its commitment to privacy, even that company has glaring issues. Google and Facebook are currently the worst, with their entire business model built on the aggregation of your personal information alongside the information of millions of others. But storage companies like Dropbox have problems as well.
You don’t want to be putting your important tax documents and copies of your passport in your unencrypted Google Drive or Dropbox!
Dropbox provides solid security for the average user, using strong encryption protocols for data that is in transit and at rest. As long as you have a strong password and also have two-factor authentication active on your account, you’re relatively safe and secure. But Dropbox employees can still access your data for a wide range of reasons, from “tech support” to using that data to improve their systems.
The same, in a more major way, is true for Google Drive. Drive is easy to use and functions as the de facto collaborative software for a huge portion of the population, but Google provides that service in order to furnish easy access to a huge aggregate of profitable meta-data.
These practices leave a whole range of various potential holes open for misuse of that data. Again, maintaining good security practices on your end will help a lot, but the truth is that data breaches do happen all the time and the type of security you use for your files is going to matter increasingly over the next few decades.
Basically, this just means that your information cannot be read by anyone but you — not even the company you are storing it with. Normally, a copy of your password is stored by the company you’re renting cloud storage space from (and these can be hacked or misplaced), but with zero-knowledge encryption you never hand over your password —just a code that proves you know your password, which is checked by a complex mathematical equation.
The main downside of zero-knowledge encryption is that it reduces the ease-of-use of cloud storage. A fully encrypted cloud storage provider will limit your ability to share files with others and even preview live files like photos and video within the cloud. With zero-encryption, you also have to keep your personal password (sometimes referred to as your “private key”) secure, because if you lose it, nobody, not even the storage provider, will be able to get it back.
So, it’s a mixed-bag. Right now, current technology forces a compromise between complete privacy and security and ease-of-use with interoperability. That said, at least some of your data needs to be secure — you don’t want to be putting your important tax documents and copies of your passport in your unencrypted Google Drive or Dropbox!
Luckily, there are a bunch of cloud providers that offer zero-knowledge encryption and there are ways to even handle some encryption from your own computer, allowing you to encrypt folders and files within even normal cloud services.