Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Google Drive

Google One finally available to all US customers

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Google_One.PNG

I first wrote about Google One in May 2018, when it was still shrouded in secrecy.  The new storage program with improved storage capacities was an invitation-only program until today (for US residents anyway).

Per the original (Google Drive) model, storage is shared across all of the Google properties you use (GMAIL, Photos stored in full resolution, Drive, etc.)

  • 100 GB for $1.99
  • 200 GB for $2.99 (New)
  • 2 TB for $9.99 (2TB for the price of 1TB on the old plan)
  • 10 TB for $99.99
  • 20 TB for $199.99
  • 30 TB for $299.99
Google_One_2.PNG

If you use the Google Family sharing program (not available to Google Apps accounts, unfortunately), you can share your Google One storage with up to 5 family members. In addition to storage, Google is offering Google Play credit to Google One subscribers and promises to add even more benefits (24x7 support is now also included).

Many still see the Google One page as invitation only but expect this to change shortly. Rolling this new program out to its millions of customers is likely being undertaken in stages.

As a Canadian, I anxiously await any indication about when it will open for us.

Review of the free Mozilla Send service

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
lett.jpg

As a citizen of the digital world, you probably transfer large files daily. Sure you could use Google Drive, Dropbox or OpenText Core but Mozilla believes there is a better way (Mozilla Send). Mozilla Send is a web experiment that allows you to easily transfer large files up to 1GB in size.

Mozilla Send can be used with any modern browser.

How to use Send

1 - Go to https://send.firefox.com/

send1.PNG

2 - Upload a file

send2.PNG

3 - Decide how many downloads you want to allow in a 24-hour window. Determine if you want to enable a download password.

4 - send the link to the recipient of the file.

Mozilla Send Security

Mozilla send uses AES-128 (AES-GCM algorithm) to encrypt and authenticate the file. Encryption is performed on the client before the file is uploaded to the Mozilla Send servers. Mozilla Send also uses the Web Cryptography API. This Web Cryptography API is the magic that performs hashing, signature verification, encryption, etc). All the security is performed without requiring any user intervention.

It is important to highlight the fact that anyone that intercepts the URL can download the file. The encryption key is appended to the URL.

Sample URL : https://send.firefox.com/download/2f3eea2e0f/#6kUB9cj4gXgTZWgDXrPEZQ

 

Important security notes:

  • Once 24-hours has elapsed or the maximum number of downloads has been reached, Mozilla Send deletes the file from the server
  • You can manually delete the file using the Delete button. An important note is that the Delete button only shows up on that initial download page. If you think you might need the delete button, keep that original upload confirmation page open. 

Web Experiment

Mozilla send is a Web Experiment and Mozilla is gathering usage statistics to determine if this is something they want to keep as a permanent offering. Right now it is a great example of solid design and engineering.

Google to replace Drive with Google One

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
computers-2653005_1920.jpg

Google just announced their new Google One service. Google One will replace the existing Google Drive service and will allow users to buy additional storage that can be used across its various properties (gmail, drive, photos, etc). 

In addition to the new name, Google is throwing in some additional goodies into the existing plans

  • The $US9.99 ($CAD13.99) 1 TB storage plan will be upgraded to 2 TB for free
  • A new 200 GB tier will be implemented ($US2.99)

Existing 1 TB customers will automatically get upgraded in the coming weeks as soon as the move is implemented. 

Google One will allow you to share your storage allocation with up to 5 accounts. Each will have their own private storage using the total allocation.

Google promises to add some sort of consumer product help and provide "extras" like Google Play credits for subscribers. There aren't too many details yet so we'll have to wait and see. Sounds a lot like the TMobile Tuesday promo.

Google promises to roll out Google One to users in the USA over the coming weeks. No news on the global expansion yet.

Review of SpiderOak encrypted online storage

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Right or wrong, Edward Snowden has become the poster child for online privacy. He has been adamant that anyone interested in true online security should stay away from the name brand online services : Dropbox, Facebook, Google, etc.

Trust No One Security

Before we talk about SpiderOak, this is a good time to write about TNO (Trust No One Security model). This is a philosophy that dictates that anytime security is needed, strong encryption must be applied and the keys to that encryption must be kept in the hands of the user. 

As an example, anytime you conduct online transactions with your bank, you connection is encrypted using end-to-end encryption (TLS) but the keys are held by the bank and created by a certificate authority. Either of those 2 can therefore intercept and decrypt the traffic if they have malicious intent. 

In the TNO model, the provider does not hold the keys to the kingdom and cannot therefore decrypt or access the data in its native format. 

Anytime a provider has the capability of resetting your password, it means it is NOT TNO and it means the provider can access your data. If they can access your data, that means a hacker may also be able to compromise their systems and access your data.

What is SpiderOak?

Unless you are a techie or a security person, you probably haven't heard about SpiderOak. Short of rolling your own cloud service, SpiderOak is the most secure commercially available TNO cloud service around.

The key to the magical security they provide is that your client encrypts all of the data on your computer before being sent through the security hostile internet to SpiderOak. They cannot see the content and if you love you password (aka encryption key), you have to create a new account and restart from scratch.

So you get Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive like features, without having to trust the provider. 

Why is TNO important?

Governments are becoming very hostile towards individual privacy. The Snowden leaks have shown that the secret FISA courts allow law enforcement to compel the turnover of user data without having the ability to notify them. With most cloud storage companies, this means they (or a hacker) can gain access to your data and then do with it whatever they want.

With SpiderOak's encryption model, they can turn over your encrypted data but they do not hold the decryption keys. The encryption is strong enough to make forced automated decryption unpractical. This means they would have to secure a court order and force you to hand over the decryption keys.

If a hacker does compromise the SpiderOak servers, the data is once again encrypted and therefore unusable by these bad actors. 

It also means they are not and cannot use your data to profile you. 

SpiderOak features

So you are convinced they offer the kind of security you want. What about features you say.

First and foremost, they offer automatic (on change) backups. This is a set and forget model that works in the background.  There is no file size limit. There is no file type restrictions. No bandwidth control or throttling on their end (some providers slow down your connection if you try backing up large amounts of files to protect the responsiveness of their service for their entire user population). 

It can backup mapped (external USB connected) drives. 

Any issues with SpiderOak?

Files are encrypted on your device and SpiderOak cannot access them unencrypted so they are unable to offer offline file delivery (sending you a hard drive with your files). 

Anytime my computer is disconnected for a while, Backblaze sends me alerts notifying me it hasn't been able to backup my files in XX days. SpiderOak has no such notification mechanism. They could implement this even with the TNO model.

During my testing, I simulated an unreliable WIFI connection to see how the client would react and eventually it hung. Even when the connection became stable and on for 8+ hours, the client stopped backing up. Rebooting didn't help. I was forced to uninstall the client, reinstall it and create a completely new backup set. This was a bit annoying. The doubly annoying issue was that support is only available through email. Support seems to be available during standard north american business hours and usually response takes 5-8 hours.

Another issue is that although they offer mobile clients (IOS and Android), those clients are read-only (aka you can't upload content). SpiderOak did say they are working to add this functionality but they didn't provide any timeline. "Currently, you are unable to upload documents using the Mobile Application. We are working on including this feature in a future release." (mobile info)

There is no way to identify a connection as "metered" and tell it not to backup using that connection (like a pay per use WIFI LTE hotspot).

Not a technical issue but the pricing is a bit more expensive than I would have hoped. I am willing to pay more for security but wish they offered more storage with each paid tier. 1TB of storage on Google and Dropbox costs $9.99 a month.

My experience

Overall my experience was good but not great. Because plans are capacity based, you can sync as many devices you want. Because everything is encrypted, there are no file type restrictions. 

Versioning worked well. They seem to use a bit level delta storage function which means you aren't consuming space for the entire file with every version.

SpiderOak provides tones of information about security. 

Files can only be permanently deleted from the original device they were uploaded from. This is a great feature.

You can right click on any folder (or file) in Windows explorer or the Mac finder and ask SpiderOak to back it up. Easy. 

You can download backed up files to any computer via the web interface.

Conclusion

There are small annoying things I would like them to solve but no major show stoppers. My biggest gripe is not being able to upload via mobile or Chromebook. I really wish they would solve this. 

Outside of that, I like everything else I have seen and think they should be your go to provider for safe and secure online storage.

Related articles:

  • Bruce Schnier on TNO here
  • Steve Gibson on TNO here.

When unlimited Microsoft OneDrive storage isn't really unlimited

technologyEdward Kiledjian2 Comments
Image by  Thomas8047  under creative commons license

Image by Thomas8047 under creative commons license

The sky cleared and trumpets sounded when Microsoft bamboozled the entire cloud storage market by offering unlimited OneDrive storage with certain Office 365 subscriptions. 

In addition to bumping up your storage quote to unlimited, they switched the maximum single-file size limit to 10GB (from 2GB). Just when you think you hit the jackpot, you hit an undocumented artificial limit that prevents you from using the all you can eat buffet in the sky. 

What is this artificial limit ?

UserVoice snapshot from here (   link   )

UserVoice snapshot from here (link)

They limit you to 20,000 files total. This means that most users won't get anywhere near the kinds of storage usage scenarios most of us thought Microsoft would be dealing with.  Unfortunately most users aren't aware of this. They will start uploading their photo collection and then all of a sudden their agent will stop uploading files. The agent won't generate any errors. Everything will look perfectly fine but they have reached their limit and the game is over.

What about the competition? Dropbox has a statement on this (link) page that says:

The number of files you can store in your Dropbox is only limited by the amount of online storage space in your Dropbox account[...]
Dropbox’s performance may start to decline when you store above 300,000 files
— dropbox help

Although Microsoft's Office 365 + unlimited storage seems enticing, I would still stick with Dropbox for online cloud storage because it just works better in every way ( faster upload, faster download, no artificial file limits, clients on every platform that work well, etc).