Decentralized storage emerging as solution to cloud-based attacks

The use of cloud-based providers for data storage continues to increase. For businesses especially, the cloud offers a convenient and affordable solution, allowing them to forgo costly on-site hardware and manage their data from any location, at any time.

However, there’s a high price to pay for all this convenience. Entrusting sensitive data to a third party comes with inherent risks, with the majority of cloud providers operating under a centralized structure. This results in vast concentrations of user data being stored on a single server or cluster of servers. Naturally, this has made cloud storage services a prime target for cybercriminals.

And it’s not only hackers that users need to worry about. Hardware failure, intrusive government surveillance, or even disgruntled employees could severely compromise the safety and privacy of third-party stored data.

Businesses that use centralized cloud storage have become highly dependent on the security practices, policies, and infrastructure of their chosen provider, leading many to experience trust issues and ask: “is the convenience really worth the risk?”

The future is decentralized

Happily, an equally convenient yet far more secure alternative is on the horizon. Decentralized storage solutions are beginning to emerge, harnessing the power of the blockchain to give users more control and ownership of their data while maintaining the easy access that traditional cloud platforms provide. So how does it work?

Unlike current models, where data is stored in one location and controlled by a central authority, a decentralized storage platform will fragment user data into smaller pieces, encrypt it, and distribute it across multiple nodes within a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.

To retrieve the stored data, users can access the network directly via their own private key. The required pieces are automatically retrieved from the various nodes and reassembled to obtain the original file. All this is done without the input of any middleman, giving users complete self-ownership of their data.

So rather than a single point of failure, there are now many. Nobody other than the owner of the private key has access or control to a complete dataset. The distributed nature of decentralized storage makes it much more resistant to things like data loss, hardware failures, and malicious attacks.

Self-custody: data is power

Data has been touted as the world’s most valuable resource, the oil of the digital era. Some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest companies are driven by the data they collect from their users, which they can either use for their own purposes or sell on to third parties like marketing agencies, advertisers, or even government institutions.

This is a big issue for people looking to protect their digital identities. Stringent data privacy laws such as the GDPR offer some protection, but for many, this isn’t enough. That’s why they’re increasingly turning to decentralized solutions that confer complete control and ownership over their data.

True self-custody means that users can choose exactly where and how their information is used. They can encrypt their data to ensure that only they can decide who gets access and when. Once uploaded to the blockchain, data becomes immutable, meaning that it is tamper-proof and resistant to fraud or manipulation. All blockchain interactions are permanently recorded, and nothing can be altered without the owner’s consent.

The power of self-custody was made apparent during the protests in Hong Kong in 2021. Popular pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to shut down amid a crackdown by government authorities, denying protesters a crucial source of information. However, people began uploading Apple Daily articles onto the Arweave blockchain, a decentralized file storage network with a mission to store internet archives forever and make them censorship-proof. Articles were made available for users to view via a unique key on Arweave's blockchain explorer and were impossible for authorities to take down or delete.

As we move towards a more decentralized internet, where users connect to pages and applications via a pseudo-anonymous wallet and share only the data of their choosing, self-custody will become the norm. This represents a significant paradigm shift in data ownership and is one of the core values being espoused by a new generation of companies and developers.

So how does it look in practice?

We sat down with the founders of Synx, a brand-new decentralized storage platform built on the Solana blockchain. Founders Luke Judges and Brad Webb are passionate advocates of data ownership and the freedom for anyone to have access to affordable, fast, and secure data storage.

At first glance, Synx looks and feels like any typical centralized storage platform, like Dropbox or Google Drive, for example. You just select the files/media you want to upload, and it’s uploaded within seconds. Behind the facade, however, lies a complex interplay of permissionless exchanges aimed at ensuring data safety and integrity.

“Our platform harnesses the power of GenesysGo’s Shadow Drive, an avant-garde decentralized storage protocol, Luke explains. “What sets Shadow Drive apart is its underlying technology; it’s ingeniously constructed atop the Solana blockchain. By employing a blockchain with a proven track record for scalability and efficiency, Shadow Drive ensures rapid and secure data storage.”

Privacy and security are essential features of decentralized storage — there’s nobody to turn to if a data breach was to occur. To address this problem, Synx uses a decentralized encryption system provided by Lit Protocol to safeguard files being stored.

“The integration of Lit Protocol’s decentralized encryption system adds an additional layer of security,” Luke continues. “This system ensures that files are encrypted before being stored, and only the user with the appropriate keys can decrypt them, offering an end-to-end encryption model. In contrast, services like Dropbox encrypt data at rest and in transit but have faced criticism for not employing end-to-end encryption, leaving data potentially vulnerable to access by third parties.”

Storage platforms like Synx — decentralized, privacy-focused, and mobile-friendly — aim to change the way we think about our data. They want users to be the beneficiaries of the data they produce, rather than rapacious tech companies using them as a source of profit, as Brad explains.

“An example of this is the new ‘Leaderboard’ feature we’ve recently released,” he says. “This allows users to compete against each other to earn cryptocurrency and NFTs, simply by uploading and sharing files on social media, creating vaults, and inviting friends.”

“Earning rewards simply for securing your data and taking back control is just one way that we’re changing the data storage game.”

The future is here

There seems little doubt that we’ve become highly reliant on off-site data storage solutions — last year, studies found that over 90% of organizations were keeping at least some of their digital assets in the cloud. And yet, trust in the security of cloud-based platforms seems to be at an all-time low.

This begs the question: are we about to witness a data revolution? With decentralized, encrypted, and self-custodial platforms offering the benefits of the cloud without the security and privacy drawbacks, you wouldn’t bet against it.

“The possibilities for decentralized data storage are limitless,” Brad concludes.

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