Green Line Solutions News

Pinning Down "The Cloud"

Thomas Topp - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Although the term “cloud storage” is now commonplace, many users do not know where this data is actually kept. The “term” Cloud computing was originally coined in 1996 by  Compaq engineers to describe the process of using the computing power of several machines to work more quickly. “Cloud” is actually a misnomer, considering that data, like the internet itself, is a system of computers housed in massive warehouses around the world. Cloud storage received its name from a metaphor originally used to describe telecommunications, but is now generally applied to data stored remotely and accessible from any internet-connected device.

By using these networks, computers were then able to become smaller and portable because the “heavy lifting” can be the networks instead of the device itself. This also means that the services operated by these networks, such as Google, can run more efficiently and dependably. However, items in the cloud, once traversing the digital gulf, are stored on one or more servers and is being kept by a company, like iCloud or Dropbox.

This is for digital security, ensuring the safety of files even if a disaster destroys the physical storage computer. This means that deleting an uploaded file is not as simple as one stored locally, essentially it is dependent on the company to delete all copies of the files across their servers. Many of these companies, like Google, do not require warrants from law enforcement to release data; whereas, a warrant would be required to search files stored on a single device.

While most users don’t worry about law enforcement’s interest in their files, a larger concern is personal hacks or widespread “hacktivist” attacks. The highest level of security comes with encrypted personal networks, passwords and hard drives. Nevertheless, even encrypted files uploaded to the cloud are inaccessible without access to the internet, or when servers are shut down by DDoS attacks, such as the October 2016 attack that effectively shut the internet off for most of the East Coast.


The Deep Web Debunked

Thomas Topp - Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Although many Americans believe they are internet savvy, very few routinely access the vast majority of online content known as the deep web. The term “Deep Web” was coined in 2001 by computer scientist Mike Bergman. While the term has has been tainted in recent years by associations with Tor websites (described later), the deep web is simply comprised of online content that is not indexed by search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, content known as the surface web.

Bergman is credited with an apt analogy comparing the internet to the ocean and search engines to fishing ships with nets: when a user searches for something, the engine drags its net across the surface of the ocean and returns results. However, much of the internet either lies out of range of these nets, or are too large to be captured. For example, databases and academic journals must be searched individually to return results, that is, their content is not displayed in search engine inquiries.

This is particularly significant when considering how much of the internet’s content is stored in databases or private networks. In regards to the vastness of the deep web, Bergman has said, “It is impossible to measure, and harsh to put estimates on, the size of the deep web… Early estimates suggested that the deep web is 400 to 550 times larger than the surface web. However, since more information and sites are always being added, it can be assumed that the deep web is growing exponentially at a rate that cannot be quantified.”

In addition to databases and the like being part of the deep web due to their inaccessibility via search engines, other content, referred to as the invisible web, is intentionally kept in the deep web through a lack of indexing. Content on the invisible web isn’t technically hidden, however; the most private and secretive place on the internet is called the dark web. The dark web is a collection of Tor websites, which require special software to access and maintain users’ identity and location anonymity by bouncing signals between Tor-enabled computers worldwide.

Tor sites all end in .onion, a vestige of their creation in the Onion Routing Project of 2002, a US Naval Research Laboratory method of anonymous communication. By affording its users total privacy, the dark web has become a marketplace for illegal activity, from drug and arms trafficking, to allegedly selling slaves and offering hitman services. While Tor keeps identities private, transactions are also kept anonymous and unregulated through the use of the online crypto-currency, Bitcoin, which was discussed in last week’s post.


The Dying Dollar; Or, The Birth of Bitcoin

Thomas Topp - Friday, December 30, 2016