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Amazon’s Giant Data Transfer Trucks Are an IT Auditor’s Worst Nightmare

Drowning in more stuff than you know what to do with? Simple fix. Pack up the crap you can’t bear to part with, rent a truck, and tuck it into a storage unit. Holiday decorations and dusty workout equipment, welcome to your new home.

What about when you run out of digital storage space? Or, on a larger scale, your company decides to ditch the cost and maintenance required for their in-house data center. Same logic. Once again, rent a truck and move the crap you can’t bear to (or legally can’t) part with off-site.

Wait a minute. Think I’m joking about the truck part? Think again.

Amazon dramatically unveiled a way to move massive amounts of data last week and yep, it’s a truck.

I don’t know why the “rent a truck” concept seems so revolutionary. Maybe it’s the melodramatic music and flashing lights?

Where's the snow?

Uploading your personal storage files to Dropbox or Google Drive doesn't take forever, but it isn’t super fast either. Increase the scale and it amplifies the predicament. When a high-speed internet connection is just too slow, what next? Last year Amazon started small and “announced a solution it called Snowball, a handheld box about the size of a desktop PC. A company rents it from Amazon, stuffs it with a petabyte of data, and ships it back to Amazon to unload.”

And, when a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) still isn't enough for your hoard of data, Amazon’s got you. They just super-size the box and strap it to a big rig. Hence, the Snowmobile.

It is a 45-foot shipping container that holds 100 petabytes of data (100 million gigabytes). That’s about 390,625 large-capacity (256GB) iPhone 7s or 20 million HD movies that average 5GB each.

“Sure, I’ll get you that file… in 26 years.”

The massive capacity means that ten Snowmobiles carrying an exabyte of data, or 100 petabytes each, can move an entire data center in less than six months. Compare that to 26 years via a 10 Gbps high-speed connection, according to Amazon. Really, who has time for that?

Ultimately, the need for speed was the catalyst for this “invention,” if you can call it that.

Preventing highway robbery

It’s a nifty tool, sure, and I don’t doubt companies are clamoring to pack up their data and send it on a road trip. But, the IT auditor in me asks “What could go wrong?”

As with any precious cargo out for a spin, you worry about its safety. The suggested internal controls for data transfer still apply. To refresh your memory, ISACA Journal describes the key control objectives for data transfer:

Security of data being transferred is a critical component of the risk associated with data transfers. The primary objective here is to ensure that the data intended to be extracted from the originating system are exactly the same data as that recorded/ downloaded in the recipient system, i.e., that the data were protected and secured throughout the transfer process. The secondary objective is to prevent unauthorized access to the data via interception, malicious activities and other means.

So, what does happen if the truck is commandeered? It’s still vulnerable even if it isn’t exposed to a network during transport. A data breach would be a gigantic headache for not only the company with the now compromised data but Amazon too. Better safe, than sorry. 

I guess Amazon has thought of it all:

Snowmobile uses multiple layers of security designed to protect your data including dedicated security personnel, GPS tracking, alarm monitoring, 24/7 video surveillance, and an optional escort security vehicle while in transit. All data is encrypted with 256-bit encryption keys managed through the AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and designed to ensure both security and full chain-of-custody of your data.

Let’s just hope everything goes according to plan and businesses dodge any run-ins with data theft or cyber extortion.

Image: iStockPhotos