Newbie in the Cloud (Without Diamonds)*

June 2015

A selfie with my new T-shirt. Never mind I had to look up the meaning online...it's still a cool shirt.

A selfie with my new T-shirt. Never mind I had to look up the meaning online…it’s still a cool shirt.

When it comes to the “cloud,” I, like most folks, accept that it’s there, that I can store my stuff (music, pictures, random jottings) there without eating up a lot of space on my phone, tablet and laptop. So attending the recent Cloud Identity Summit hosted by Ping Identity was eye-opening: Here were people who are cloud-focused, their dedication, passion and energies directed to how it’s used, how to maximize its potential and, above all, how to make it secure.

I describe myself as a typical end-user with a somewhat techie bent. I love gadgets, apps, the latest new thing. Being “in” on the ideas and innovations about the cloud was definitely attractive: listening to the presentations and chatting with developers and picking up all the freebies you find at a convention. Yes, I got a few pens, some USB connectors, and couldn’t resist entering the drawing for a drone! Way cool!

But the real business of the day was the cloud and its security. Developers around the world are working to ensure that when you or I access the cloud, our personal information is safe, from our bank accounts and our credit cards to our health records and social media interactions. There were presentations on how to make sure only those “authorized” can gain access, what constitutes “identity,” how the Internet of Things (IoT) is ripe for plunder by bad actors, and so on. Yes, there was much technical discussion full of acronyms, but the big picture was clear enough: the cloud is embedded in our personal and professional lives and if we don’t have protections, we all stand a chance of having our lives totally disrupted.

At the same time, I was very much struck by the thought that these talented, dedicated, honest (hopefully) professionals are asking me to trust them with everything. In order to guarantee my security, they need to make sure I am who I am. Through my reliance on the Internet, they already know my shopping preferences, my favorite restaurants, who my friends are, even where I am right now. Usernames and passwords are not enough. Will it be my Social Security number? My driver’s license number? How about my fingerprints or a scan of my retina, my DNA?

I do get it. Cyber stealing is all around us. So I have to put my trust in the good guys, those men and women at this conference and their colleagues back at their desks who work hard, essentially, on my behalf. But I do wonder, just a little, if I needed to keep my fingers crossed.

Despite this unsettling feeling, when I left the conference, I was in good spirits. I met some terrific folks from all over the world with fun stories to share. And you couldn’t beat the location right on the Pacific Ocean. Oh, and I got a neat t-shirt. However, I initially had no idea what it meant.

Maybe after another tech conference or two, I will.

—Deborah Johnson

*A reference likely lost on anyone under 25 unless a Beatles fan.