Earlier days there was a time
when, to use files (word processing files, spreadsheets, etc.) on different
computers, you needed to save your files on a thumb drive or CD-ROM disk or
whatever storage devices. The drive or disk then traveled around with you so
that you could load your information onto other computers while holding your
breath until the document or PowerPoint slide was actually retrieved! Not
any longer. The safety, stability, and ease-of-use of cloud computing in
education is resulting in widespread adoption in educational institutions of
all sizes and types.
Are there really any true
advantages in education for storing information off-site on a server
that could be located anywhere? The answer is yes! A recent
conversation about cloud computing with several colleagues in the
education field, including teachers, revealed significant advantages:
• No more carrying around devices, such as thumb drives or CDs. You
don’t need to worry about losing the device, breaking the CD, or not
having your information load properly.
• Easy access! Lesson plans, labs, grades, notes, PowerPoint slides –
just about anything digital that you use in teaching is easily
uploaded and accessed anytime.
• Stability: cloud computing is now to the point of being a very
stable technology that you can rely on.
• Security: Your data, content, information, images – anything you
store in the cloud usually requires authentication (ID and password,
for example) – so it is not easily accessible by anyone. In addition,
should something happen to the technology at school, your content will
still be available to you and your students if it is stored elsewhere.
• Shareability: Working on an instructional assignment with other
teachers? You can share some or all of your files that you have stored
in the cloud. No more obtaining an extra thumb drive or burning
another CD or DVD. You just need to send a link to the file(s)
• Tractability: Make changes to a lesson and want to change it back?
No problem. Cloud computing will save multiple revisions and versions
of a document so that you can chronologically trace back the evolution
of an item.
We trust the cloud more and more. Now even our documents from the
bank, ID scans and confidential business papers work find their new
residence on the cloud.
But can you be sure your
information is safe and secure out there?
Here are five data privacy protection tips to help you tackle the
issue of cloud privacy:
1. Avoid storing sensitive information in the cloud.
Many recommendations across the 'Net sound like this: "Don't keep your
information on the cloud." Fair enough, but it's the same as if you
asked, "How not to get my house burned down?" and the answer would be,
"Do not have a house." The logic is solid, but a better way to
translate such advice is, "avoid storing sensitive information on the
cloud." So if you have a choice you should opt for keeping your
crucial information away from virtual world or use appropriate
2. Read the user agreement to find out how your cloud service
If you are not sure what cloud storage to choose or if you have any
questions as for how that or another cloud service works you can read
the user agreement of the service you are planning to sign up for.
There is no doubt its hard and boring but you really need to face
those text volumes. The document which traditionally suffers from
insufficient attention may contain essential information you are
3. Be serious about passwords.
You must have heard this warning a hundred times already, but yet most
people do not follow it. Did you know that 90 percent of all passwords
can be cracked within seconds? Indeed, a great part of all the sad
stories about someone's account getting broken is caused by an
easy-to-create-and-remember password. Moreover, doubling your email
password for other services you use (your Facebook account, your cloud
storage account) is a real trap as all your login information and
forgotten passwords always arrive to your email.
Here is an efficient method of creating a secure password:
1. Choose a random word (preferably a long one) -- for example,
2. Now let's say you are signing up for Gmail. What you should do is
add a "Gmail" word to the word you have chosen. Thus your password for
Gmail will be "communication Gmail." If you sign up for Skype, your
password will be "communication Skype", for example.
Therefore, you need to remember only your "core" word and the
structure of your password. To strengthen it even more you can add a
certain number before the name of the service, for example your birth
date. In that case your password will look like
You can invent any other way of memorizing your passwords, the one
that appeals to you. But the main point doesn't change - such a method
is really simple and effective.
Encryption is, so far, the best way you can protect your data.
Generally encryption works as follows: You have a file you want to
move to a cloud, you use certain software with which you create a
password for that file, you move that password-protected file to the
cloud and no one is ever able to see the content of the file not
knowing the password.
The most easy and handy way is to zip files and encrypt them with a
password. When creating the archive check the "Protect with a
password" option, type in the password (keeping in mind the no. 3
rule) and only after that you can move it to the cloud. If you want to
share it with someone just give the password to that person.
In case you have more time and energy or want to provide an even
higher level of protection for your files you can use “TrueCrypt”
encryption software. It's an open source encryption program with which
you can create an encrypted file (the so called "virtual disk") and
keep all of your private files protected with a password.
5. Use an encrypted cloud service.
There are some cloud services that provide local encryption and
decryption of your files in addition to storage and backup. It means
that the service takes care of both encrypting your files on your own
computer and storing them safely on the cloud. Therefore, there is a
bigger chance that this time no one including service providers or
server administrators will have access to your files (the so called
"zero-knowledge" privacy). Among such services are Spideroak and Wuala.
When choosing the best way of protecting your information keep in mind
how valuable that information is to you and to what extent it is
reasonable to protect it. Therefore, the first thing you should do is
to define the level of privacy you need and thus a level of protection
for it. If you do not actively use the Internet to work, even a
two-step verification involving SMS with a code sent to your mobile
phone may seem cumbersome, though most people who use email for
sending business data appreciate this option.
Not everyone is ready to pay for data to be stored, but if you use
cloud storage for keeping corporate data, you'll find paying for safe
and secure data storage reasonable. So try to strike that delicate
balance between the required level of protection and the
time/effort/money spent on it.
Ishadi is an undergraduate of Uva Wellassa University of Sri
Lanka, currently following Bachelor of Industrial Information
Technology and currently working as Intern - Information Security
Engineer at Sri Lanka CERT|CC