Tutorials/Tips

Tahoe Least-Authority File System for secure, distributed data storage

Looking for a solution to give you an edge in the ongoing struggle between you and the authorities over the privacy of your data? Then you should take a look at Tahoe Least-Authority File System, or Tahoe-LAFS. Or just LAFS.

It is a secure and distributed file system used in the S4 Cloud storage service of Least Authority Enterprises. Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, founder and CEO of Least Authority Enterprises, is one of the creators of LAFS.

There are three components that work to make creating a secure distributed file storage system using LAFS possible. The first is the LAFS client software, which is a Free Software available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Binary packages are available on most Linux distributions, and on NetBSD.

The second part is the Tahoe-LAFS gateway, which can be the same computer where the LAFS client is installed on or an intermediary computer between the client and the storage servers. The third and final part are, of course, the storage servers.

The key benefit of LAFS is that it is designed to offer provider-independent security. Which means that privacy and security of your data is initiated on the client end of the system, so that by the time the data reaches the remote storage servers, you can be sure that read-access to unauthorized persons will be very difficult. It is said to be impossible, but that assumes that there are no yet-to-be-discovered bugs in the software that can be exploited.

The image below is taken from the Least Authority website and slightly modified to show that the client and LAFS gateway can be the same computer where the client is installed. For an interactive demonstration of how LAFS works, visit this site.
Tahoe-LAFS Least authority file system secure cloud storage

To use LAFS in a manner that guarantees provider-independent security for my paranoid self, I’ll rather have the LAFS gateway be the on same computer where the LAFS client is installed on. That’s about the way we can begin to talk about verifiable end-to-end security that will satisfy me. That means not having to rely on a third party. The Tahoe-LAFS FAQ offers all the basic information you need to know about this file system.

I am in the process of using LAFS to provide secure Cloud Storage on plain-vanilla Cloud services and will post an update on a separate article when that exercise is completed. For a list of companies that offer secure Cloud storage services, see 4 host-proof or PRISM-proof Cloud storage services.

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