As the internet continues to revolutionize the world, more and more people are becoming dependent on it every day. Starting from checking the news in the morning to making life-changing decisions, we rely on the internet for almost anything we need.
If you had to sum up how you use most websites, it would probably be something like: visit the website, browse what you are looking for, and make an account etc. If it’s a site that you might not need again, you’ll probably skip the last step. Otherwise, you will make a user account by providing the required information which usually includes your full name, birth date, email address, phone number, and if the website is an e-commerce site, your credit card details.
In plain sight, there seems to be nothing wrong with giving out such information. Making an account makes browsing a site more convenient as it stores your preferences and gives you an identity on that website (mostly applicable for social media sites or blogging sites), alongside giving you certain benefits from time to time. Many e-commerce sites give regular discounts to their registered customers only, and even if some discounts are not specific to registered customers, you will not be notified about the sale unless you create an account and sign up for the newsletters or daily updates.
However, do you realize the consequence of handing your data over to someone who will just store it with thousands or maybe even millions of other people’s information?
Think about it this way. If you have a few diamonds in your home, a huge probability is that no one will even know that you do. However, if you store thousands of tons of diamonds in a huge vault, everyone will know. There is no way you can be inconspicuous about such a place, and the huge security you will have in place will be a dead giveaway. No matter how much you try to strengthen your defense system, criminals will always be trying harder to find weaknesses in your security and eventually, might even outsmart you. After all, getting access to such a treasure is worth the hard work and patience they invest.
Similarly, to cybercriminals, your personal information is as valuable as diamonds are to the average people. They can earn up to $30 or even more by selling each person’s record on the dark web, hence getting their hands on a million users’ data will literally make them millionaires overnight! Therefore, data breaches are on the rise.
Every website that asks for your information either stores it in their huge personal data centers or in their clouds. Either way, they store the data of so many people in one place that it becomes a beacon to cybercriminals, and hence the perpetrators are always lurking around these troves of data, hoping to find ways to breach it. And, in recent times, they have been succeeding at it in an alarming rate.
Consider the Equifax data breach as an example. Equifax is one of the biggest consumer credit reporting agency that collects bank records of millions of people, and when its databases got breached, many experts claimed it to be the “worst” and “most harmful” data breaches of all time, mainly because of the sheer amount of sensitive and crucial data it exposed to the hackers. All the people who were victims of the data breach will remain in fear of crimes such as robbery or identity theft for a very long time, possibly their whole lives. These are people who relied on bank loans to get by, so you can imagine the anxiety they felt when they realized their finances might deteriorate farther because of these increased risks.
Equifax is not the only company who stores so much data, other companies such as TransUnion and Experian store equal or maybe even more data. However, other organizations called Data Brokers have HUGE amounts of data stored on their property.
Data brokering is an actual industry now which generates $300 billion every year, and this figure is constantly increasing. Almost 3 million people in the United States have become a part of the industry, and there are many others worldwide. These institutions collect every data they can find about a person, such as shopping website preferences, products they might be interested in, how much they can afford, what their profession is, where they live, and the list goes on and on. They sell this information to advertising agencies who analyze it thoroughly to do targeted advertising so that a dentist gets advertisement related to dentistry and people living in Chicago see advertisements about concerts or events occurring in Chicago.
The aim of these agencies is not a bad one, but the problem lies in the fact that there are no strict rules regarding data brokering. The companies are under no clear regulations about how they can use the data and to whom they can grant access to it, hence the data ends up becoming too easily accessible to everyone.
For example, the Adhaar database in India is a HUGE compilation of 400 million people’s information, which consists of data related to every part of everyone’s lives. The Indian government has allowed many private organizations free access to the database, prime examples would be Microsoft and Airbnb. Even though these institutions claim to have pure motives about handling the database, such open access makes the database very insecure and prone to being hacked. This basically means personal information of 400 million people is in jeopardy, experts claim it is only a matter of time before the database gets hacked.
On the other hand, having rules, regulations or security measures in place will never be enough. They might reduce the number of hacks, but they will not diminish the chances of hacking totally. As long as huge amounts of data are stored in such ways, they will ALWAYS be targeted by crooks.
The solution? Decentralization.
Decentralization means these huge amounts of data will not be all stored together; in fact, they will be distributed over a huge number of devices, possibly every device connected to the Internet. The technology behind this innovation is called the Blockchain.
The “Blockchain” is basically a digital ledger that is shared over all the parts of the network. It is duplicated on every device’s storage, and it will only accept any action on the data if the action is verified/performed on every other device. This means, hackers cannot target a single location or data center to hack as the same data is stored everywhere, and neither can they edit or steal it from a single terminal as the other nodes will disrupt the change. Every edit or update of the Blockchain is stored as “blocks”, hence no one can secretly steal data and get away without getting caught.
Decentralizing data will not only make it more secure and harder to tamper with, but it will also make the web more efficient and lesser complicated. Problems that result from the algorithm used to locate files on the internet will be resolved. The current system used locates a file using its location or URL only, which is inefficient as that file might be hosting on a nearby location, yet the link would only lead to the faraway server. This can be solved using technology such as the IPFS, the InterPlanetary File System, allowing files to be located based on what they contain. Therefore when a search is done for any file they can be traced and retrieved from the nearest location it is stored in.
Even after reading all this information about data storage, it is okay to still be confused about how data storage can affect you and what should be done about it. If you want to know more, get in touch with Flint Tech Solutions Cloud Management services. They will assist you every step of the way. Be secure, be safe!