SpiderOak Takes Novel Approach To Data Privacy

August 3, 2013 – 8:02 AM

Ethan Oberman has a problem with cloud computing. “A person should be able to use cloud technologies without relinquishing his or her privacy,” explained Oberman, CEO of cloud storage serviceĀ SpiderOak, in a phone interview.

Given Internet companies that rely on mining data about users for revenue, government agencies that have the capability to monitor online activities and read personal communications, businesses seeking competitive intelligence, and hackers hammering at the data piggy banks, maintaining a comfortable degree of privacy isn’t easy.

The problem is that cryptography isn’t easy. Cryptography doesn’t ensure security. It’s merely an element of a broader security strategy. But it has become a necessary element, given the inadequacy of perimeter-based protection. Because barriers can be penetrated or bypassed, data deserves additional protection.

SpiderOak is one of a handful of companies that have adopted a “zero-knowledge” approach to cloud computing services: It does not keep copies of users’ encryption keys, so it cannot provide access to a user’s files on demand or otherwise. From a liability and compliance perspective, ignorance is bliss.

In an effort to spread the gospel of ignorance, SpiderOak has been working on a zero-knowledge open-source application framework called Crypton that will allow developers to integrate strong cryptography into cloud-based applications. It can be used to ensure that servers running an application cannot read the data created and stored by the application. Decryption is done in the client, whether that’s a browser or a native app.


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