In an over-the-top press event at his New Zealand mansion last weekend, the notorious Kim Dotcom unveiled a new cloud storage service called Mega. From the ashes of his now-defunct Megaupload, which was shut down by U.S authorities exactly one year ago, rises a service that promises to be incredibly secure and better at handling copyright complaints.
But will users flock to it? More to the point, should you use it?
On a personal level, Mega is a big win for Kim Dotcom. With it, he shows the world that the military-style raid on his mansion one year ago (which was theatrically mimicked during the Mega launch event) did not succeed in bringing him down, even as he faces criminal charges over Megaupload’s alleged involvement in copyright infringement.
The Perks: More Storage And Better Security
For users, the Mega message is less clear. Whether they were using Megaupload for piracy or legitimate file sharing, the site’s users have had to move on to other means of transferring bits across the Internet. For some, that means services like Dropbox while others moved to Megaupload-esque solutions like Rapidshare and Mediafire, both of which have made changes to their functionality and public posture since the Megaupload raid. Where ever they went, Dotcom is hoping to lure those users back with tightened security and ample storage space.
On the surface, Mega’s offering is pretty tempting. While Dropbox and Box.net limit free users to 2GB to 5GB of storage, Mega lets you pile up 50GB worth of data before asking you to pay. The premium subscriptions start at 500GB for $10 per month and go up to 4TB for $30 a month.
Given History, Is It Worth It?
Sure, Mega is also much more secure than its predecessor, using super-tight asymmetric encryption to keep data secure and out of view from curious governments and other third parties. But no matter how good it is, do you really want to store your valuable data on a service tied to Kim Dotcom? When you sign up for Mega, it’s hard not to think about what happened to the founder’s last filesharing product. You can’t help but picture the armed raid and simultaneous seizure of Megaupload’s servers.
It’s also hard not to think about Kyle Goodwin. He’s the Ohio-based high school sports broadcaster who was using Megaupload to transfer video files between himself and the video editors he had hired to help produce his broadcasts. After one of his external hard drives was damaged, Goodwin tried logging into his Megaupload account to retrieve his old files. By then, the FBI had already seized the servers, locking Goodwin and plenty of other users out of their data. He has since been involved in a class action lawsuit demanding that authorities give non-infringing users access to their Megaupload data.
How likely is a shutdown of Mega? Thanks to the way the service was built and the lessons learned from the demise of Megaupload, probably pretty remote. But for some users, it’s going to be tough to swallow the idea of trusting a service that is so intrinsically linked with the subject of a major, ongoing criminal prosecution.
Other than the color scheme, the Mega interface isn’t all that different from that of Megaupload. Even the logo’s typography is the same: It looks like they just lobbed off the “upload” and changed the color. It just feels a lot like a site with which many people are familiar, but which has been replaced with an FBI anti-piracy warning message.
Potential Security Holes
“The end result of this is that it is easier (not easy, but easier) to reverse-engineer a Mega user’s private RSA key than it should be,” writes Lee Hutchinson. “That means it’s easier to spoof the identity of a Mega user when sending messages or files.”
The site has other limitations as well. For one, it’s very insistent that people use Chrome to access Mega, due to its advanced implementation of HTML5 features. Not even the latest versions of Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer or Safari will suffice. Despite this strict adherence to the latest in Web standards, Mega still relies on Flash for some tasks, like downloading files. That means it won’t work on iOS devices until Mega submits official apps, which Apple may or may not approve.
What does that all add up to? For users like Kyle Goodwin, who have a day-to-day need to rely heavily on cloud-based file storage for critical data, Mega remains a bit of a gamble. But for sharing miscellaneous, backed-up files here and there, there’s little reason to not give it a try.