Why I No Longer Use MEGA's Encrypted Cloud Storage

Published: 2020.11.14

Cloud storage is as popular as ever and I for one have been a vocal advocate for backing up your personal files to a cloud service provider. With the imminent release of Proton Drive, I've seen some people bring up MEGA.nz as a secure and encrypted alternative to Dropbox and Google Drive and wanted to write out my thoughts regarding my experience as a paid user and a previous moderator to r/MEGA before shutting down my Reddit account.

I currently am (soon to be was) a paid Tier 1 Pro user. With free plans, the service is very unreliable and slow (especially for larger files) and will periodically block you from downloading/uploading if you've reached your free usage quota (which I don't have a problem with – they're a company and can't be giving away their service for free). While using their paid service, I never once had an issue with their automatic backup tool for Linux (called MEGA Sync) or the mobile app – speeds were reasonably fast 99% of the time and my data was reliably backed up. The company is also pretty transparent about how the encryption works with the publication of their security white paper and their apps are source-available on Git Hub.

While being a moderator, I spent a lot of time cleaning up the subreddit of spam (and boy was there!) and modernizing the theme, adding links, and even adding the official MEGA Support account as moderator. I realized that one of the most popular uses of the service (to no fault of MEGA) is the sharing of porn – which in my opinion degrades it's reputation in terms of recommending it due to how it has become synonymous with "porn" on several "adult" subreddits. In addition to the creeps, a lot of their free user base (especially the ones on Reddit) are very entitled believing that the service should be entirely free and don't understand that the company needs to make money.

This is not the reason I decided to move away from MEGA as a cloud storage provider. I made the decision to move away from using their service due to the fact they're based out of New Zealand (a member of the Five Eyes countries) and there's likely a backdoor to access the data I upload. This isn't necessarily a huge deal for me, but it's more of the principle of the matter and I believe that "bad actors" can take advantage of this as easily as "good actors". There's also the fact that the company's shares are 100% owned by an entity in Hong Kong known as Cloud Tech Services Limited according to the New Zealand government's NZBN website (source). I also have read elsewhere that the company's shares were owned by a Chinese investor and then seized by the New Zealand government. Either way it doesn't bode well that either a Chinese company or the New Zealand government effectively has control of MEGA.

The second half as to why I'm no longer using the service is coming to acknowledge the fact that with any cloud storage services, you're essentially putting your trust and your personal data onto someone else's computer. Although MEGA offers encryption by default (something that Dropbox and Google do not offer), I'm nonetheless trusting them when they say they cannot decrypt my data. In this case, don't take their word for it and encrypt it yourself before uploading.

I've since moved away from cloud storage to store my files in favor of storing them locally along with an external offline backup. Once my MEGA plan expires at the end of the month, I'll be grandfathered in to the 50gb "free" plan which I'll likely use to back up non-personal data I don't really care about. So at the end of the day, I will not only no longer pay for the service, but I'll no longer actively use it. This being said, with the launch of Proton Drive, I will likely not use the service to backup my personal files. "The cloud is just someone else's computer" as the saying goes.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to hey@chuck.is