Securing the Cloud

Dropbox LogoI’m a big fan of Google products. I love gmail, and I was thrilled when Google launched Google Drive — a way to store stuff on Google’s servers so that it’s accessible from wherever you are in the world. There’s just one problem: your stuff is literally accessible from anywhere in the world, by anyone who knows your password. Worse yet, who knows how much of that stuff Google unobtrusively scans in order to further refine its database of targeted ad demographics? Fortunately, I’ve found some secure alternatives, and probably from a company you already know: Dropbox.

There are ways of securing and encrypting Google Drive; however, most of the encryption services involve trusting additional parties with your data. That’s like trying to secure a secret by telling MORE people. TrueCrypt, however, runs completely locally, but is all-or-nothing. You have to create a container file in advance, and every time you change a file Google wants to upload/download the whole thing. A small container file doesn’t hold much stuff, but a roomy container file takes forever to sync to Google’s servers.

I found a solution in Dropbox, however. Evidently Dropbox does some sort of “piece by piece” comparison, and only uploads/downloads the pieces that have changed. That means I can make my roomy TrueCrypt container, lock it up good and tight (without any external help or trust issues), and then upload the whole thing to Dropbox. The first time I sync it takes a long time — about 2 hours on my cable connection for a 2GB file. After that, however, Dropbox only updates the changes! I unlock the container on my computer (which TrueCrypt refers to as “mounting”), update my files, then close and lock up the container (“dismounting”). Once the container is locked and dismounted, Dropbox automatically updates the changes (and only the changes) on their servers. When I’m out working on my laptop I can use Dropbox and TrueCrypt to almost seamlessly access my files, and because it’s all being synced through the cloud I don’t have to worry about which version is the correct one. It’s kind of like a digital safety deposit box that I can open anywhere, as long as I have the proper key!

If you haven’t set up a Dropbox account yet, I strongly urge you to do so. It’s a great way to backup your files offsite and to have access to your important stuff wherever you go. If you get an account (or already have one), I very strongly suggest that you also set up TrueCrypt to add some much needed security and privacy to your cloud files. If you sign up for a free account through one of the links on my site you’ll get extra space!

If folks need additional help setting up TrueCrypt to work with Dropbox, let me know in the comments.

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