The National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance scandals made public by the whistleblowers have brought to light the disturbing fact that many of the services we daily use, are insecure against Governmental snooping. The American intelligence has access to more information than most of us are comfortable with. Big tech giants like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and others have allowed the NSA to access data directly from their servers. This has forced the individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to look for alternative ways to protect their data from foreign spies and other intelligence services.
Swisscom, the leading provider of telecom services in Switzerland has set out to create a cloud service with a focus on Swiss-based clients such as their banks. Though the company has stated that its desire to develop cloud-based services was driven by the need to cut costs and increase flexibility, there is no denial of the fact that it is looking to bolster its anti-espionage measures to protect the country’s financial center.
Switzerland has strict data privacy and protection laws as it has long profited from offering discreet banking services to foreigners. Unlike the US where the laws are designed to expedite data without any formal notice or procedure, Swisscom would have to receive a formal request from a prosecutor before allowing access to sensitive information. Swiss regulations require Swisscom to store all client data within the country and also require that data transfers be carried out within its borders.
In the case of cloud-based services in particular, the security and storage of data in Switzerland is becoming an ever more important factor in business customers’ decision-making processes. The company has also decided to support foreign enterprises that are seeking a privacy haven and this could loosen the grip of the dominant US cloud service providers. Yet, while the privacy laws protect the data locally stored in Switzerland, there can be no guarantee that data is as private when it crosses borders – which occurs frequently in our current internet architectures.
With concerns over the extent of foreign intelligence access to data, the European Union wants telecommunication firms to collaborate to safeguard the local internet traffic. Swisscom is aiming to become the forefront of modern technology by providing services to detect hacking and other illicit threats. It is focusing on technological improvements like new programming languages for websites that can support apps on various platforms and this would make it harder for spies to retrieve the data. The company aims to have seventy percent of its information technology (IT) infrastructure in the cloud within a couple of years. It is also devising strategies to make its services more affordable than that of its competitors. It has already entered into a partnership with Akami, a leading cloud platform service provider.
The need for European companies to ensure their data is not subject to the attentions of foreign intelligence services has been something of a theme of late. With the need for technology to protect against illegal online activities, Swisscom is proceeding in the right direction with its secure cloud service platform.
With the announcement of Swisscom’s plan, Switzerland has become the latest country where it seems there could be a movement towards more local-oriented services on the broader Internet. US cloud providers should be worried that not only foreign companies but also US based companies will be less likely to choose US-based clouds.