Show 'em how it's done, Wilson!

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  • May 13, 2010
  • Kari Hernandez

This morning, Wilson Rothman, features editor for Gizmodo, was interviewed by NPR’s Renee Montagne about cloud computing and how Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others protect their customers’ online information. Pretty complex stuff, but Wilson nailed it. At INK, we do a lot of spokesperson training and a ton of messaging work to make complex technology easier to understand. We tell clients to know their audience, delete their database of knowledge, use examples, personal stories and numbers to illustrate the point and simplify the message. Wilson did all of this in an impressive interview that I will use as a “what TO DO” example in the future. Here are a few of the highlights. You can listen to the full interview here.

Can we begin with a definition of cloud computing? Cloud computing is the computing that happens on the Internet rather than on your computer.  A good example would be back in the day when we wanted to get on AOL, we had to load a bunch of software onto our computers. Now when we want to get on Facebook, we just open a web browser and Facebook is there. That’s the computer vs. the cloud right there.

With one’s personal data, if it’s not inside your own computer, it seems that you’re somewhat at the mercy of whatever cloud computing service you’re using to safeguard you’re privacy and even the security of that information. Absolutely, but the flip side is they’re better at keeping your data than you are. People at home lose data all the time.  I was shocked the other day, I heard a statistic that 5% of Americans use an extra hard drive to back up their computer. And hard drives die all the time, I had one die last Friday.

Even the best companies can’t stop hackers. The most high profile example that we’ve heard about lately was probably with Google.  It had some of its software code stolen and later said what was stolen was a code to the company’s global password  system. Now. . Doesn’t it suggest what could happen? I think the best analogy to that is that there’s a difference from stealing the blueprints to the castle and stealing the keys to the castle. You can look at a blueprint until your head spins, you still might not be able to figure out a way in.  As far as I know, user passwords were not stolen.  That would be the bad thing.

Since increasingly cloud computing is transforming the way we put data on the computer, whether at work or at home, do you have tips? The key to this whole thing is the password.  I dug up some numbers that are kind of startling. A hacker can use software to decode a four character password in one and a half minutes but if the password is eight characters, it would take two centuries.  Those extra four characters geometrically expand the difficulty of decrypting the password to a degree that the hacker wouldn’t even bother.