University develops app to protect cloud data

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am


Chinese University has developed an Android application that will help users protect their data in cloud storage by installing two user-encrypted passwords directly into the files without going through a third party.

At present, users of cloud storage use data-access passwords that are encrypted through third-party cloud storage systems such as iCloud, Dropbox or Amazon Web Services.

Patrick Lee Pak-ching, a CUHK computer science and engineering professor who worked with two undergraduates on the unfunded project for two years, said their application provided another level of security to users of cloud computing. 'There is a risk with users' security settings being encrypted by a cloud storage company,' Lee said.

'A third party holds the key to accessing their stored data, and if that company goes out of business, users will lose all their stored data.'

Cloud storage allows data to be saved online with third parties that lease their storage capacity to users. The data can then be accessed online through a computer or a smartphone. Its main advantage is that it drastically reduces the need for storage in a home or office computer.

CUHK's app protects a user's data with a password called a data key, which is in turn protected by another password, or control key. Both passwords are maintained by the user and do not go through the third party. 'This means that when users have to delete files from the cloud, the data is assured of deletion because even if the files still exist, they can only be accessed by a key,' Lee said.

Another function of the app allows users to transfer data from smartphone to cloud storage while eliminating duplication of data, thereby reducing file sizes and therefore cost. Lee said this feature shortened the time required to transfer data, an important feature at a time when 3G service providers may cease offering unlimited data plans.

The app is free and will be publicly available in May when a version may be developed for Apple iPhones, which use the iOS operating system.

The innovation will be on display from Friday to Monday at the International ICT Expo at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.