When the Cloud is More Secure

I’ve annoyed a great many electrons explaining how to free yourself from “the cloud” (online services controlled by the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google). The reason I advocate individuals use self-hosted services is because it’s more difficult for creepers like the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect all of your data. As an anarchist the state is one of the most common malicious attackers in my threat models. But after gaining some experience helping somebody deal with a surveillance happy significant other I’ve finally had to consider other threat models. Namely models involving local threats. This is where “the cloud” comes in.

Consider a domestic abuse situation. The threat is likely going to be somebody who lives with you and therefore has physical access to your devices. Physical access is the death knell of any security setup (although with encrypted data storage the difficult of exploitation, assuming the threat isn’t using rubber hose cryptanalysis, has greatly increased) so what can you do? Move your data to “the cloud” and access it with anonymizing tools.

The last part is very important. If you access your “cloud” data from your normal machine using the standard tools there will be records left all over the place. However, if you use something like a Tails boot disk, which doesn’t write anything to any storage media by default and pumps all Internet traffic through Tor to render local network monitoring tools impotent, there will be very little evidence of you having created or access any data (although Tor doesn’t hide the fact that you’re using Tor, which is something to keep in mind if your network is being monitored locally).

In a situation where the data you create could agitate your threat it’s best to make sure that data is hidden. I haven’t really had time to go over the finer details of this threat model so what I’m writing here is simply a very brief introduction to something I’ve had to consider recently. Much more work is necessary on my part and I will try to post updates of what I come up with in the hopes it can help other people.