Move over cloud, the future of online file storage could be fog

Owen Hughes
UK weather

Cloud computing has already changed the way we work and store our files, and use of the technology is only expected to grow as our thirst for data outstrips the availability and capability of physical resources.

Yet the technology is not without its caveats, namely that you're entrusting your files into a system you have little control over: if something goes wrong, your files could be lost or fall into the wrong hands.

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Computer scientists in Italy are now working on a new concept that could reduce the risks involved with storing your files on the cloud with a new system that disperses them across multiple remote locations – and they're calling it fog.

What is Fog computing?

The idea of fog computing is that rather than having all your documents, images and other files stored in a single location, they are instead broken into pieces and spread across several servers on a public or private network. As a result, no one file exists in its entirety in one place, which in turn means there is no single location for hackers to target.

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According to Phys.org, the system uses standard internet protocols and works by endlessly bouncing data packets around routers.

"Our proposal is based on this idea of a service which renders information completely immaterial in the sense that for a given period of time there is no place on earth that contains information complete in its entirety," said the researchers from Italy's University of Camerino.

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Fog computing would ensure only those with proper clearance would be able to access the files distributed on the network. However, the researchers noted that while it would "offer significant advantages in terms of security", it could create difficulties from a legal perspective. Namely that it would also make it more difficult for law enforcement to gain access to files needed in criminal cases. Instances of police and technology firms coming to blows over the right to access to content on the cloud have grown in recent years.

"The trend towards outsourcing of services and data on cloud architectures has triggered a number of legal questions on how to manage jurisdiction and who has jurisdiction over data and services in the event of illegal actions," the researchers said.

"Regulatory and technological aspects of cloud technology are showing both opportunities and gaps in the rules on security and accessibility. Our proposal aims at addressing a problem that has not yet manifested using a protocol and discussing the normative aspects regarding the possibility of rendering a document completely immaterial."

The full research paper is published in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.

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