If you’re like most people, you’ve heard about “cloud computing” but still find it difficult to easily define the term or how it affects online activities.
Surprisingly, though, most of us use the cloud more than we realize. If you’ve ever shared your Google calendar or created a Google document, for example, you have been on the cloud.
Or consider Microsoft’s newly announced Office 365, the software giant’s push to enable PC users to access their files from anywhere.
Being on the cloud, in essence, means using web-based tools or applications that can be accessed through a web browser as if it were a program installed directly on your computer. Generally, the purpose of cloud computing began for companies to avoid the expense involved in building or acquiring its own expensive, in-house IT infrastructure.
But more recently – and definitely more permanently – both companies and consumers are moving “to the cloud” for nearly everything they do. That also means you’re potentially putting yourself at a security risk, as there are serious privacy aspects of sharing documents over a public cloud network.
That’s partly why a government agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has just released new definitions for cloud computing privacy and security.
The agency also issued a set of guidelines for managing security and privacy in the cloud. Special Publication 800-144 (Draft): Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud outlines the security and privacy challenges for public cloud computing. It also shares data-sharing safety tips to consider before sharing documents or swapping applications with others. Most importantly, it warns that:
“Cloud providers are becoming more sensitive to legal and regulatory concerns, and may be willing to commit to store and process data in specific jurisdictions and apply required safeguards for security and privacy. However, the degree to which they will accept liability for exposure of content under their control remains to be seen.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the government’s efforts to enhance the secure adoption of cloud computing, check out the NIST Cloud Computing collaboration site.