Can the enterprise allow employees to use the public cloud?

cloud computing

The theme today isn't about enterprise clouds that are my normal topic, but instead, clouds where end users fly. Face it – your users are in their own clouds. Is that a nervous tic I see on your face?

iCloud OwnCloud


Magic sauce

Store my files

Store your files

Store our files

Mix them all together

Stir with random care

You said that file is where?

I find this harrowing. Users face no real way, without a lot of work that they're disinclined to do or even understand, to know if a personal device's files will be stored securely in any particular cloud provider's bin.

There are no standards. No seals of approvals worth spit. Random selection will take place, with a bias towards something your operating system provider conveniently provides.

Or maybe the home machine is a Mac (see: iCloud) and the office machine runs Windows 7, and the phone is an Android. People interchange files frequently from one device to another without thinking about the ramifications of a differing cloud provider. More copies are better, of course, because people want the convenience of just getting their files, photos, music, videos, and yes, work products, on demand. Demand is for now, not hauling out another device, booting it up, waiting for a logon, logging in (too many machines don't require passwords), maybe a signal, then maneuvering to some deep folder to fetch a file. Convenience rules.

This flies in the face of the hopes, dreams, and practical realities of security officers, policy makers, and IT professionals everywhere. It also explains the successful business model behind every convenience store in the world – time pressure.

There are ways to keep sensitive data from finding its way into someone's messy cloud cache, ranging from draconian to astute. Much depends on the values an organization imposes on its users. Yes, they have to be based on trust, and yes, people – even organized and thoughtful people – can be messy with data assets.

Sophisticated data loss prevention schemes are in place in some environments. Others force users to logon to virtual sessions and work within the ostensibly safe boundaries of those sessions. Some use sophisticated document or work-product tracking. Others force and use seriously sophisticated, often OS-based, policy controls (ex: Microsoft's Group Policy Objects) in an effort to impose moats around applications and, hopefully, their data. Swimming moats gets an airborne drone when clipboards are enabled…a trick I've had recently demonstrated to me.

Can you implement an approved cloud? How would you judge it? Encryption on the wire in addition to in-storage? Who do you whitelist?  

My values, and those of most of my colleagues, say not to allow any organizational data to end up stored in places we don't control and can't audit – period, end of page, and job, if we catch you. Like BYOD, I also recognize that users will be users, and policies vary on the issue from draconian (yeah, you're fired) to "this is our list of approved sites." Don't use XY or Z, as they're unapproved, meaning blacklisting cloud storage.

If you get a chance, tell me which you – or your employer – might approve of, and why, in three sentences or less. You can also say things like: "No Way, I'll be shot at dawn if I say this, but…" and/or if they would (Upworthy alert) Change This One Thing.

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