Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Data Sharing versus Data Security

Data Sharing versus Data Security

Two of my favorite topics that seem to contradict each other are the sharing of data and the securing of it (especially crypto). I'll be pitching both at the upcoming VM and Linux Workshop next month at NC A&T in Greensboro. What's really amazing at this time is how hot both topics are and yet how poorly understood they are.

The VM and Linux Workshop is an highly technical and surprisingly inexpensive conference. This year there will be the added value of Velocity Software's performance seminar two days prior to the workshop (at the same location).

Data Sharing

The glut of mobile computing and popularity "cloud computing" illuminates the need for data sharing ... even amplifies it. For just one example, think about your list-o-contacts on your smart phone. Handy, eh? But not so handy if you have to go into contortions to synchronize the info with other parts of your digital life. Gotta have data synch, and that's data sharing.

Full disclosure: the presentation will specifically cover filesystem sharing, though we'll touch on data synch and other such content manglement. Networked filesystems were more common until recently. In a context where applications use files, network sharing of filesystems makes a lot of sense. But even where apps use methods other than files for their working data, they need files for basic operation. And here's the kicker: most of the operating system needs files. So ... sharing of filesystems makes a lot of sense in more contexts than you might think.

Sharing filesystems as block devices or memory is cooler: It is efficient, effective, even elegant. Sharing virtual disk or virtual ROM is obvious to some but still not practiced as widely as it should be. And sharing disk images works in SAN land as well as in the virtual world. "It's everywhere you want to be."

Data Security

We're talking crypto, but not just crypto. (Controlling access is crucial.)

I mentioned smart phone and contacts. Data sec balances data sharing so that your contacts remain yours.

The presentation will cover a mere handful of the data access issues. (You could have a week long seminar discussing all related topics!) For the focus topic of SSL, it's vital to protect the server's secret key.I'll get into how that works, why its important, and related tools (PGP/GPG and SSH and others). Ciphers and hashes and keys ... oh my!

Truth be told, PKI is a mess, but it gives us a framework, a reference. The heavy lifting is done by SSL (and TLS) which is really slick, well defined, and robust. But the underlying cryptography is a moving target. As soon as you learn one cipher or hash, you find it has been defeated. So keeping things plug-compatible is essential. 

Both of these topics border on obsession for me. They're so geeky cool. More people should use them. Even where they're not applicable, they should be considered ... part of your "doctor's bag" of remedies and treatments. I'm excited to be talking at the Workshop again.

-- R; <><

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