How To Keep Your Personal and Business Information Safe In The Cloud
Updated: Feb 21
As a national speaker and an owner of a tech support and computer repair business, I'm a big fan of using cloud-based services that give me access to my company information, files, and presentations wherever I am in the world. Even as we become more dependant on cloud-based applications, people I encounter remain cautious about cloud services. Although most cloud providers have implemented strong security with their services, there are still things that could compromise your security and privacy. To help you trust the cloud and to give your information better security, here are some tips to help you have better protection when using the cloud.
I know the term 'cloud' seems like a general term, but to break it down for you 'the cloud' is a technical term which means you're storing information on someone else's computer. You are using the cloud if you're used web-based emails such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com. If you're active on social media, you're in the cloud. When you shop online with any store, that is accessing the cloud. Streaming services? You guessed it, it's in the cloud. The same thing with any of your financial services, it's cloud-based. Additionally, if you have information stored on Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, or OneDrive, you are using cloud-based services. As you can see, most of what we do is cloud-based and you need to take steps to make sure you keep your information safe.
1. Strong passwords are the most important step. With most cloud-based services, your data is encrypted which makes it safe and secure. Data encryption is the technology that scrambles your data making it inaccessible unless you have the encryption. All of that goes out the window if you're using weak passwords and using the same for your cloud-based accounts. Consider using a passphrase as opposed to passwords for all of your accounts. My favorite example of a passphrase is 'stinkychicken1946' or 'purplesquirrel2023'. Most of us use passwords that tie into our personal lives that we already share on social media. A passphrase helps come up with something original for a password. Also, get in the practice of saving your passwords or passphrases in your browser, which will help you get into the habit of using different passwords for your cloud services.
2. Backup your information locally. Having your information saved to the cloud helps in the recovery process if you lose your data, but sometimes that process can take days if you have a large amount of information to recover. Also, you never know when your cloud service may have an interruption of service or complete failure on their end. Ransomware attacks are also notorious for attacking cloud accounts such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud if they get loaded onto your systems. When you make a local backup of your information, use an external hard drive as opposed to a thumb or flash drive. Popular models of hard drives such as Seagate (www.seagate.com) and Western Digital (www.wd.com) usually come with free backup software that will perform continuous backups of your data.
3. Enable Two-Step Authentication on all of your cloud accounts. When you enable Two-Step or two-factor authentication on your cloud accounts, you get alerts anytime there is unauthorized access to your accounts. If a cybercriminal gets access to your account, the 2 step process will stop them from logging in because an alert will be sent to your smartphone, tablet, or your computer in the form of an email
4. Beware of phishing schemes that are designed to trick you to give up your data. For the most part, most cloud service companies do an excellent job of securing their computers to keep the bad guys out. Unfortunately, most of those cloud breaches you read about in the news are because of user error. 99% of data breaches require user interaction and criminals know this. Beware of emails, calls, and text that try to ask you for the credentials for your cloud accounts. If you think there is a problem with an account, hang up and call the cloud provider directly.
5. Read the terms of services of your cloud provider. This one is tough, but you need to do it. Many cloud services have terms that allow them to share your documents and photos. Others allow them to spy on your surfing habits. Do you really want your provider to share information you want to keep private? Don't want to slog through boring terms of service, check out Terms of Service; Didn't Read (www.tosdr.org) that helps highlight things in terms of services that you need to be aware of.
6. Avoid uploading sensitive information to cloud storage services. If you want to keep your information out of prying eyes, keep it locally on your devices. Most cloud providers keep your files encrypted which makes your data safe, but that doesn't prevent your cloud company from looking at the files you've saved to their service. it's better to be safe than sorry. It's unlikely that a cloud storage provider will be breached, but you never know.
The cloud has opened many doors when it comes to our digital lives making the information we want to access available wherever you are, but always make sure you take the proper steps to main your privacy and security for your cloud-based accounts and the information that you store on cloud services.
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