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In This Age of Fog/Cloud (Surveillance-Friendly) Computing, Can OwnCloud Be Trusted?

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 6:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Spooks love the fog as it lets them spy on people without the people knowing about it


Summary: Looking at the problems with “cloud” (fog) computing, even when it is driven by Free software and is self-hosted

Fog Computing is one of the most disturbing emerging trends. It’s often proprietary by design (no access to source code) and it is a lot worse because it’s remotely controlled (no control over the binaries, either). Red Hat's embrace of OpenStack represents a strategic shift wherein Red Hat facilitates the deployment of Fog Computing by other companies [1]. It’s not Red Hat which does the violations, but oftentimes the companies which Red Hat helps will go on violating people’s privacy and dignity (Amazon for instance).

OpenStack is one of those cases where one has access to source code, but one cannot verify that this code is actually what’s executed as there is no access to the binaries (for the client side). Microsoft partners like Citrix are also embracing OpenStack [2], which sure enjoys growing influence [3]. It’s better to use something that’s Free/Open Source than something that’s proprietary, but when the code runs remotely, it is still far from freedom-respecting, unless of course it’s self-hosted, in which case NSA surveillance of OpenStack instances (possible [4]) is getting hard.

There is only one project that I know fulfills the above needs. It is the Germany-based OwnCloud [5,6,7], which has roots in SUSE (the key staff). The problem is, this project’s code has had a lot of vulnerabilities which basically would be easy for the NSA to exploit and gain access to servers. MEGA is said to be privacy-respecting, but it is proprietary and Flash-based. This option too has been found to have security vulnerabilities.

So the bottom line is this: keep your sensitive data on the local disk, stored by a reliable system like GNU/Linux. This data should not shipped without encryption (e.g. SSH) down a wire unless it only moved locally (within local network or hub). In this age of personal targeting, politically-motivated smears, espionage, etc. we need to protect our personal data. If we didn’t have anything to hide, we wouldn’t mind uploading our entire hard drives to be made publicly accessible by all, right? Well, not really. Apparently, even if you’re doing nothing wrong, you still need privacy. The NSA doesn’t give a damn about that.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Red Hat Delivers More Tools, Services for Enterprise OpenStack

    Red Hat has a sterling reputation for advancing and supporting Linux in the enterprise, but the company is structuring much of its future growth around cloud computing, and OpenStack in particular. The company has recently announced the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service certification program for OpenStack, a deepening partnership with Canonical and Ubuntu surrounding the new Havana release of OpenStack, and more.

  2. Citrix Embraces ‘Anyness’ and the OpenStack Cloud

    VIDEO: The general manager of Citrix’s cloud efforts explains how his firm both supports and competes against the open-source OpenStack cloud.

  3. OpenStack Summit Highlights Cloud’s Global Influence

    The open-source OpenStack Foundation held its semiannual Design Summit here Nov. 5-8, discussing all manner of topics related to the cloud. As the first OpenStack Summit held outside of the United States, the event had a strong emphasis throughout on the global nature of the OpenStack cloud platform and, more specifically, the high levels of interest, participation and deployment of the platform in China. According to data released at the Hong Kong event, China is now home to more OpenStack developers than anywhere else in the world. China is also home to some of the largest OpenStack deployments on Earth, including one with Qihoo 360, a Beijing-based online security and mobile vendor. Qihoo 360 is using OpenStack to provide cloud-based security for 450 million user

  4. OpenStack Cloud Vendors Vigilant in the Face of NSA Snooping

    The Edward Snowden revelations about NSA snooping in the cloud are not having an impact on OpenStack cloud vendors, including Rackspace and Dreamhost.

  5. Why I love OwnCloud: answer to Dropbox lock-in

    I recently covered the release of Dropbox platform and my thoughts on the impending cloud storage lock-in. I was also fortunate enough to run across what the guys over at NimbusBase are doing over the weekend. They seem to be the answer to the open API for mobile and web applications, providing a cross-cloud storage layer and a GPL reference implementation while they do it. I also penned a few thoughts on their model.

  6. Own Your Data with OwnCloud
  7. Pure open source, open standard based Google Docs, iWork, Office 365 competitor arrives
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