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Good Question: What Is The Cloud?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- On Sunday, naked photos of some big-time female celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, were leaked online. They were reportedly stolen after someone targeted into the stars' individual iCloud accounts. These incidents have opened up a debate about whether what we put on the cloud is safe.

Before answering that, it's important to understand exactly what "the cloud" means.

When asked on the streets of Minneapolis, many people assumed "the cloud" is a remote place filled with huge computers where we store music, videos, movies and more.

"Everything just beams up into the sky," one person said.

"It's a storage solution for some people and companies," said another.

Most are referring to the Apple product, iCloud – a service that allows people to store their music videos and photos on remote servers. But experts say the cloud far larger than that.

"The cloud is a network of services provided by a computer server on the public internet," said John Carney, a digital forensics expert with Carney Forensics. "The cloud can sometimes be thought of as the Internet or, perhaps, the web."

In other words, it's a network of servers, and when you use the cloud, your computer communicates with those servers. Some of them are used for storage, like Facebook or Flickr, and others are used for web applications we run, like the games on Facebook.

Anytime we use gmail, Hotmail, yahoo, Dropbox, Photobucket, iCloud and more, we're in the cloud.

Carney says people are probably on the cloud every hour they're on the internet.

"Most people may not be specifically aware they're using the cloud," he said.

The name dates back to the network diagrams of the 1970s and 1980s to show the public internet and as connecting everything together.

"It's new technology, and it's hard to understand what means and how it's used," Carney said.

Carney believes storing information on the cloud is safe as long as you use a strong password. Two factor authentication, where you enter a password and then you get a message -- text or email -- with a special code you enter as well, is also a good option for more protection.

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