[IMGCAP(1)]Security is hot right now. Or, perhaps, insecurity. This week’s biggest news in tech, Apple’s unveiling of its next generation of iPhones and futuristic Apple Watch, while earning raves, came on the heels of the large celebrity photo hacking scandal allegedly traced back to storage on the company’s iCloud. Apple Pay emerged as arguably the dark horse innovation in a presentation full of them, though experts quickly pontificated on the security implications of payment via devices loaded with sensitive data.

Meanwhile, Home Depot, Target and Gmail are some of the latest victims of high-profile data breaches.

These security concerns are as old as the cloud, but even as that gains traction, in adoption and concept, mystification remains, with stories like these only seeming to justify the complacency of late adopters.

As I gain further elucidation on the complexities of cloud-based systems in my role interviewing experts, even I find myself wary of the metadata I’m exposing with every Facebook upload. 

So data security is a topic I’m not yet exhausted of exploring in speaking with various leaders in the space. As the largest cloud-based software providers move toward more integrated, open ecosystems, the emphasis remains on protection, for their partners and more savvy clients and consumers.

“We are seeing smarter clients as the concept of the cloud is becoming clearer,” Tony DiBenedetto, chairman and CEO of technology services firm Tribridge, No. 3 on our 2014 VAR 100 list, told me. “They are making real decisions with their workload, in terms of going to a public cloud or private cloud. People are more educated on the prospective public cloud, with a shared application layer and infrastructure, and may want the security and flexibility of a private cloud.”

Already a proponent, one Acumatica client I spoke to at the cloud ERP provider’s recent summit, Ehren Dimitry, president and CEO of New Jersey-based AME Corp., discovered the full extent of the cloud's power—and security—in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

The tragedy provided an unfortunate but important example of the belief Dimitry had long espoused of the cloud being a safer space for data than physical storage vulnerable to the elements.

These progressive views, while interesting, are not unexpected coming from the leadership of technology companies with a stake in promoting innovation. Recently, though, the strategy of one CEO did take me by surprise.

Her name is Roya Mahboob, and as CEO of the Afghan Citadel Software Company, she is one of the first IT female CEOs in Afghanistan. This pioneering position, along with the work she does for Women’s Annex, empowering women by teaching them tech and social media skills, and building internet classrooms in Afghanistan high schools, made her one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In The World for 2013. Through my involvement with a women-focused philanthropic network, I had the honor of hearing her speak at a recent event.

[IMGCAP(2)]Her story is awe-inspiring enough, but one tech-related moment of enlightenment came when she discussed the logistics of paying the women who provide content to the Women’s Annex platform.

Once explained it made perfect sense: they are compensated in Bitcoin. These women, under numerous restrictions including working outside of the home, and forced to depend on fathers and husbands to the point of not having their own bank accounts, have few options to take advantage of the freedoms money affords. For women carrying money on the streets, theft is also common, Roya told us, putting the threat of cybersecurity in perspective. 

But through exchanging the online currency, both with customers and each other, Roya has watched some women gain larger standing not only in the economy, but their own households. It’s an inspiring use of new technology that remains unproven in many ways, but carries an enormous power those of us in places of greater privilege might take for granted. Yes, Bitcoin has made headlines for its use in illicit markets, but it can also create essential new ones. And based on the experience of Roya and the women she works with, safety is relative. 

Bitcoin represents a bold new frontier that, like the cloud, requires education, trust and, as Joanne Barry, executive director of the New York State Society of CPAs, explained in an Accounting Today article, confidence. Armed with that potent combination, accountants and consultants are positioned to be pioneers in the dawning digital currency age.

That age will be on the cloud. And with all the innovation, equal access and blurring of socioeconomic constraints that provides, it’s a secure enough place for me.       

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