Reports of Chinese hackers and U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) snooping have raised fresh doubts about the security of the ever increasing amounts of data kept in the cloud. Google ($GOOG)--which was implicated in the NSA revelations--has responded by beefing up its cloud storage service.
Biopharmas like genome data platform DNAnexus are known to use the system--called Google Cloud Service--to house information. Now when one of these companies goes to upload data, Google will automatically encrypt the information before writing it to a disk. Google is using the 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to protect the data, which passes through three layers of protection.
The triple-encryption process should protect the data from hackers, but anyone with a key could access the information. Early reports on the NSA surveillance suggested Google gave the agency access to data. The search giant has repeatedly denied the claims. "Our legal team reviews each and every request, and we frequently push back when the requests appear to be fishing expeditions or don't follow the correct process. No government has the ability to pull data directly from our servers or network," a Google spokesperson told Mashable.
Nonetheless, users can add an extra layer of security by encrypting their own data before uploading it to Google. This option has long been available, and is likely being used by vigilant biopharma companies. When DNAnexus committed to using Google's service to store 350 terabytes of DNA sequencing data, CEO Andreas Sundquist spoke of expanding on the base level of security.
Since Google signed up DNAnexus in October 2011 its rivals have strengthened their cloud storage offerings. In August Amazon ($AMZN) rolled out a cloud-based service called Glacier that offers cheap storage. And Amazon has done 256-bit AES encryption on data uploaded to its S3 storage service since 2011.