It’s hard to track down exactly when the word “cloud” was first used in computing, but these days, it’s ubiquitous. Even if you don’t have a cloud account, you’ve probably been using cloud storage indirectly without even knowing it. For instance, the vast majority of social media, email companies and banks utilize the cloud when storing your photographs, emails, files, and other data.
Millions of people also choose to use various popular cloud solutions, from Google Drive to Dropbox, that store their data online and provide them with the ease of access at any place and time, as long as Internet connection is available. With the usage steadily increasing, it seems that we trust the cloud more and more.
However, the convenience of storing data on a cloud and being able to access it across multiple devices comes with a security tradeoff. Apple has recently had a major hacking scare related to leaked iCloud credentials. Last year, Dropbox reset many of its users passwords due to a data breach that took place back in 2012. Even celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Hayden Panettiere, became victims of malicious hackers, who seized several intimate pictures from their personal cloud storage accounts a few years ago. So how can you be sure the information you store on the cloud is safe?
The simple answer is “you can’t.” It’s impossible to ensure full security of files that are physically out of your hands. Nevertheless, there are a few steps you can take to make your data as secure as possible—and still convenient to access. Here are five ways to be proactive in the face of cloud security risks.
Let’s start with the basics. Don’t use your real name, last name, or company name for your passwords. The names of your children, spouse or pets aren’t suitable either. To avoid the struggle with entirely random characters, you can use easy-to-remember, but hard to crack passwords based on phrases that mean something to you. However, if you still find juggling multiple passphrases difficult, a password manager is your best choice.
Also, you should be extra careful with the security questions designed to verify your identity in case you want to change your account password. Guessing or researching the correct answers to these questions are among the most effective methods of social engineering. You don’t want someone getting into your storage the way intruders got into those celebrity iCloud accounts.
Many online account services, such as Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive, provide users with an optional two-step authentication system that prevents hackers from getting into your data even if they’ve discovered your password. To access an account protected with 2FA, you need two different elements: something you know (like a password) and something you have (like a mobile phone).
Make sure to read a provider’s terms and conditions and scrutinize their data protection policies before using their services. For instance, most people don’t read Apple’s iCloud terms and conditions and just click “Accept,” but it deserves a careful examination. If Apple deems your content to be in any way “objectionable,” it reserves the right to “pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion.”
No matter how reliable the cloud might seem, it’s always a good idea to back up your data somewhere else. There are numerous cloud storage services on the market today, which allows you to set up some cloud accounts for backup purposes. Having a copy of your data on an external hard drive is also recommended.
Although the biggest names in cloud storage, such as Dropbox and iCloud, may offer the most convenience, they are far from being the most secure. That title belongs to services that offer local encryption for your data. The key for this encryption process, otherwise known as zero-knowledge proof, never leaves your device. Therefore, this method protects your data even from the service providers themselves as they have no way to accidentally disclose your credentials.
Got any other tips and tricks for making cloud storage more secure? We’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments below!