It’s no surprise that the use of cloud storage has grown exponentially over the past few years. Many businesses and enterprises have moved to the cloud and they are continuously benefiting from its increasing versatility and demand. Before the cloud, saving files or data was pretty straightforward. All you had to do is save them on your computer or an external hard drive, with some users opting to email themselves in order to access anywhere at any time.
This concept of accessing files anywhere is the very principle of storing data on the cloud. However, the cloud is just a visual representation of what really is a network of servers that can remotely store the data of users, as well as of businesses and corporations. The data can be accessed via a web browser such as Google Chrome or Safari, as well as through mobile apps. If you’re an Apple user, chances are, you are already connected to iCloud, while Android users could be using Amazon Cloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
Storing data in the cloud has many advantages but is not without risks. In 2014, iCloud accounts of high-profile celebrities were hacked, resulting in leaked, revealing photos of the victims. According to initial reports, it could not be determined how the hack unfolded with some celebrities stating that some compromising pictures has been deleted long before the hack occurred. This showed that photos from the celebrities’ devices had been stored in the cloud and had been accessed at the time. An update later on revealed that the hack appeared to be a “very targeted attack on user names, passwords, and security questions”. The incident shed light on the importance of cloud security and therefore, the lack of it. It also served as a warning to users to be more aggressive when it comes to using strong account credentials. Here are some of the pros and cons of using the cloud and what you can do to avoid a privacy breach:
Convenience – storing data in the cloud is more efficient, allowing users to access their files remotely. This eliminates the burden of physically accessing a device.
Storage – you can store a vast amount of data. While this comes with a fee, many cloud services offer various data storage options according to your needs. This means that if you go beyond your allowed storage allowance, all you have to do is pay a certain amount in order to obtain more space.
Accessibility – for enterprises, storing in the cloud allows better accessibility. Employees can access company files while working offsite, resulting in better collaboration.
Data leakage – while storing on the cloud is relatively safe, data could still be accessed by cybercriminals using sophisticated techniques. If users do not apply privacy best practices, they run the risk of getting their data hacked and ultimately leaked.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – this emerging trend has allowed many employees flexibility in the work place, not to mention a huge improvement on work-life balance. However, BYOD comes with risks as well. If employees are not trained, educated, or careful, company data can land in the hands of a third-party or an attacker via stolen, lost, or misused devices.
Resource sharing – if a business is using the cloud as a shared resource, the cloud’s availability and capability to respond to outages or surges in activity could pose a challenge.
Tips to follow to secure your data on the cloud:
Always use good passwords – though a data breach is beyond your control, you can prevent an attack by using strong and complex passwords. Use a combination of alphanumeric characters that include lowercase, uppercase, numerals, and special characters. This eliminates the chance of an attacker cracking your password. It is also recommended to change your passwords regularly across all devices.
If possible, avoid storing sensitive information in the cloud – if you do need to store personal information in the cloud, make sure you read the user agreement provided by your cloud service provider. Though it may seem boring and tedious, you will still be able to get the general idea of how your provider protects customer privacy.
Use encryption – the concept of encryption doesn’t vary much from two people communicating with secret codes and secret keys that only they can understand. The same principle goes for digital encryption. In order to preserve the privacy of your data, you need to encode the information and secure a key only you and your recipient are privy to—this is what encryption does. Some cloud services who practice “zero-knowledge privacy” offer encryption apart from storage and backup.
*This article was originally published on the Eastern Communications website for educational purposes. The information in this article is meant soley to educate users.