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How Cloud Startups Are Tackling the Challenges with Digital Data Theft

Digital theft is a lot more common than you would think

Digital theft is a lot more common than you would think. Worse, a lot of people committing these crimes may not even be aware of the laws they break. The internet has made it possible for anybody to find digital assets (like photographs, videos, articles, music, etc.) online and use this content for their own personal or commercial projects. This is not only a violation of laws, but is also a serious loss of revenue for the content creator.

Digital data theft is a real problem for a number of cloud-based startups. Software developers constantly deal with their work being duplicated and distributed for free online. Many times, this is done anonymously and this makes it harder for these asset owners to go after the data thieves. However, there are a number of ways businesses can check digital data theft. Here are some of the more popular tactics.

Watermarking

Watermarking is by far the most popular method to deal with digital data theft. If you sell photos or videos online, it is a good idea to make only a clearly watermarked version of your content online available. This way, people who do want to use your content will need to pay for it. This is not a hundred percent secure though. A number of legitimate content buyers use these digital assets online on blogs, research reports and brochures. This serves as an avenue for digital content to be picked by other users for free use.

There is also digital watermarking. These are unique markers that are covertly embedded into an audio, video or image file and can be used to trace back a stolen copy to its origin. A number of modern digital cameras come with ‘lossless data embedding’ that protects a digital image from distortion and can thus serve as forensic evidence of authenticity in a court of law. Other software makers (including the likes of Microsoft Windows) use digital watermarking to determine a legitimate copy of their software from a duplicated one. Although violators are not criminally prosecuted in a majority of the cases, the information helps the software maker target their message about counterfeiting to the select group of violators.

Licensing

No matter how well a digital asset has been watermarked, these images and videos can still be counterfeited with little effort. It may not be feasible to restrict the use of copyrighted photos that have become viral on social media networks. In such instances, it is a good idea to work towards monetization of these assets. According to this article on Shopify, content owners can make use of a two-pronged strategy to recover lost revenue from digital data theft - it is recommended to send a ‘cease and desist’ notice to commercial entities that are illegally making use of your digital assets. You may also complement this with an invoice towards licensing of these digital files. This way, cloud startups that own these assets may succeed in either restricting illegal use or make money from such illegal use.

Secure Access

There are not many ways one could restrict accessibility to digital content like images, videos and music where there is a thin line that separates free, legal access from illegal counterfeiting. However, cloud startups that own other forms of digital assets (like confidential customer data) cannot rely solely on the use of licensing or watermarking of content. Depending on the type of content, licensing or selling content could be illegal in many cases. In such instances, the onus is on the content owner to secure their system and restrict access to the data itself. There are multiple ways this could be achieved.

2FA - Two factor and multi-factor authentication systems make use of unique identifiers like biometrics or SMS authentication to authorize access to specific individuals.

Tokens - These are on-demand tokens that let cloud systems authenticate access. For instance, the popular RSA tokens provide authorized users with a secure hardware that generates time-bound tokens that must be inputted into the system for access. Losing a token would lead to an inability to access the cloud system.

Firewall - Firewalls restrict the access of a cloud system from within pre-approved set of IP addresses. This is however not a feasible solution if your customers are located across the country or the world. In such cases, you could request access to your cloud system through a pre-approved VPN system which is however not feasible for every use-case.

Security against cloud data theft is a growing industry and is estimated to be worth billions of dollars. But there is no one foolproof way to secure your assets against data thieves. In some ways, it is a cat and mouse game between the asset creators and thieves. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the business owners to keep their systems safe and secure with the latest innovations in the industry.

More Stories By Harry Trott

Harry Trott is an IT consultant from Perth, WA. He is currently working on a long term project in Bangalore, India. Harry has over 7 years of work experience on cloud and networking based projects. He is also working on a SaaS based startup which is currently in stealth mode.

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