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Google Trials Drive File Encryption

Storing your files with someone else has always been questionable practice, but it’s one that’s become much more common with the growing popularity of cloud storage. It seems that everyone these days offers their own cloud storage service. An increasing concern for consumers comes in the form of security. Storing your photos in the cloud might be fine, but what about business documents or other sensitive information? Is data that you don’t want falling into other hands really safe to be storing online?

According to CNET, Google is currently testing a system that encrypts users’ files permanently when they’re uploading them to their Drive service. Their sources say that only a small amount of Drive files are encrypted at the moment, but that Google are looking to roll out the feature to everything that’s stored in the cloud.

This has come to light after it was revealed that the National Security Agency is using a program called PRISM to collect user data. Companies were being told to hand over user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This would allow the government to access any of your data under the pretence of it being a security precaution. It’s totally unacceptable and a huge breach of personal privacy. One way to stop the government accessing your data would be to have everything encrypted (since only you would know the key unlock it); Google is supposedly trialling this at the moment.

Ensuring that only the client knows the encryption key is very important, otherwise the procedure becomes frivolous. This was shown through recent revelations in the Guardian newspaper that Microsoft helped the NSA “circumvent the company’s own encryption”.

Encryption in cloud storage is uncommon due to the costs associated with it, both financially through additional computing processes, but also the difficulty when it comes to indexing the data. Data stored on Drive is currently sent in an encrypted form, but then stored at data centres unencrypted.
"Mechanisms like this could give people more confidence and allow them to start backing up potentially their whole device," said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Jay Nancarrow, a spokesperson for Google, refused to answer questions about Google Drive encryption when asked by CNET.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that it is entirely possible to encrypt data uploaded to Drive, but it requires users to have the foresight to do this. In light of the recent PRISM news, however, it’s likely that a lot of users will want to know how to protect their data from the eyes of the government. Services like Boxcryptor exist to provider “fast and easy encryption for Google drive” with the highest encryption standards.

It’s unknown whether these encryption tests from Google are true or not. The company may indeed be trialling it out, but that doesn’t even guarantee a public release. Until then, it’s much advised to be using other services to protect your data, like the aforementioned Boxcryptor, especially if you’re storing sensitive information in the cloud.


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