If one technology change could be said to illustrate the changing focus of technology in everyday user's lives, that choice would probably be the proliferation of the Cloud. Cloud based services are everywhere and in just about everything. Family photos are not emailed anymore, but are hosted in cloud-based albums to be shared through links. Flash drives used to be the go-to technology for the transportation of important, large documents between PCs, but now those same files are stored on the cloud for easy access everywhere. And in more instances, the data stored in the cloud is stored there permanently.
As more and more of our digital lives are intertwined with cloud-based services, the importance of security in the cloud becomes more prominent. Unfortunately, there are very few way to guarantee the safety and security of your data online. The most you can hope to accomplish with cloud security is to limit security vulnerabilities and take smart precautions and the first step is to consider these five tips for security on the cloud.
Avoid Storing Important or Sensitive Data in the Cloud
The simplest way to maximize the security of important files and documents is to not store them in the cloud. Sure, this is the obvious answer and in some cases the easiest as well, but sometimes cloud storage is unavoidable in today's PC environment. In those unavoidable cases, limit your exposure, only leave the files in the cloud for as little time as possible, and follow the remaining tips to secure your cloud-stored files.
Thoroughly Read User Agreements
When choosing a cloud storage provider or deciding which service is a better fit for your data over another service, the best way to focus on specifics of the service is to read the user agreements thoroughly. This will not be easy reading, but the specifics of your agreement with the cloud service provider will shed light on how your data is handled, what variables are in play with your data, and when your data might become vulnerable due to outside interference.
Take your time, take good notes, and ask questions about the trickier legalese and then you should be able to pick the best option for hosting your cloud data.
The weakest link in all online services is the simplistic passwords many users assign to important accounts. To make matters worse, most users reassigning the same weak passwords to multiple accounts further exacerbating the damage. Here is an eye opener, according to recent research nearly 90% of all passwords can be cracked in a matter of seconds.
A strong password will be as much of a deterrent to online thieves as any other amount of security features one can apply. Take a look at our previous blog, Three Keys to a Secure Password, for steps on creating a strong password and make sure this step in securing your cloud storage is done correctly.
Encryption is the best way to secure files from unauthorized access. The process is relatively simple: you run an encryption program that secures your data in an unreadable format and assigns a password to that file, you store the file in the cloud, and, when you are ready to access the data, you apply the password to the files thereby decrypting the results. Sure, the process is much more complicated than that in reality, but the end result is the same in that your data is secure even in the event of a breach in your cloud data storage.
There are a number of free public key encryption programs available for use. Do a little research on the options available and use the program that works best for your applications.
Select an Encrypted Cloud Service
While there are few cloud storage providers that provide server side encryption at this time, the movement in the industry is leaning in this direction. The holy grail of encrypted cloud services will be a service that encrypts the data before transmission to the storage location and leaves the encryption key with the end user, also known as "zero-knowledge" privacy. This negates the possibility that government agencies, malicious hackers, or nosey employees will ever have access to your secure data.