Will Dropbox’s security hole boost Aussie rivals?


blog In terms of security disasters, this is a big one. For four hours yesterday, you could use any (yes, that means any) password to log in to any Dropbox account. TechCrunch has the lowdown:

“For a brief period of time, the service allowed users to log into accounts using any password. In other words, you could log into someone’s account simply by typing in their email address. Given that many people entrust Dropbox with important data (one of the service’s selling points is its security), that’s a really big deal.”

Our question is, is this the sort of thing that will increase interest in smaller, Australia-based alternatives to Dropbox? The number of options out there for moderate cloud-based storage usage are increasingly rapidly, after all. Australian cloud startup Ninefold has an option, Optus recently launched Smart Safe, and even iiNet has what it calls its ‘Online Vault’. As a side note, Microsoft also updated its similar SkyDrive platform today, which we have heard good things about.

Dropbox’s application is really neat, and the fact that so many people use it means that sharing files online is now a breeze. However, your writer has found in practice that dealing with Australia-based servers for hosting websites and storing backups via FTP is just so much faster latency-wise, that it can often be worth looking locally, despite the cost. It will be interesting to see how the market changes if multinational players like Dropbox have more problems as they scale.

Image credit: Dropbox. Yes, a picture of a koala in a Dropbox is included as part of their standard press kit. Who knew?


  1. The joy/point of Dropbox is not that it just stores your files in the cloud, but rather that sync between client/cloud and between clients is so seamless. Until other services solve this problem, they aren’t a competitor to Dropbox.

    Secondly, ALL service providers will, at some point, suffer a security lapse or a failure of service. The root cause of such an event could be one of many, such as lack of preparation, under investment, malicious intervention or accident.

    All of these root causes can be mitigated, with enough time, money and commitment, to the point of being highly improbable but as a consumer I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to know if a provider is actually mitigating them, or just throwing up marketing spin.

    • You’re absolutely right — it is that seamless nature of Dropbox’s software which has garnered it so many fans. However, I would argue that, as with Apple software, a lot of the complexity is unnecessarily obscured — I, for one, would like to gain access to more powerful features. I think there is an argument to be made for a more powerful and feature-rich version of Dropbox, perhaps with region-specific storing (“I’m in Australia, let me use Australian servers”).

  2. I mainly use a combination of DropBox and SugarSync. I tried Windows SkyDrive, but it was so “Windows Live like” that it shat me to tears and I removed it entirely.

    I hadn’t considered local options, as quite frankly latency has never been an issue. Once the actual download or upload starts I get terrific speeds (well as fast as my limited ADSL2 upload speed will allow anyway).

    Above all else its the multiple plugins, extensions and integration with other software and cross-platform support that makes DropBox and SugarSync so appealing. There are are some great iPhone apps available (Documents to Go Premium and Good Reader leap to mind) that allow you to access your DropBox/SugarSync files on the go from within other software interfaces. I can edit a word file on my iPhone, and give a friend a link within seconds, which they in turn can access from their mobile device, whether it be Android, iOS or Windows Mobile.

    I even have a back-up of my entire iPhone’s jailbreak extensions and iPSW firmware file, should my laptop and other storage options shit themselves!

    I also really like the SugarSync desktop client, which provides a Windows Explorer style interface and a ton of native editing/sharing/tagging options.

    And finally for basic note cloud syncing I use SimpleNote (brilliant in it’s simplicity) and EverNote if I want to record images or sound. Their automatic OCR tagging feature is also very cool.

    Show me some Aussie start-ups with that kind of cross platform integration and 3rd party software support and I might be vaguely interested :)

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