Cloud Security 101: How Safe Is Your Data on the Cloud?

3.6 billion people around the world use cloud-based services on a regular basis. These are extremely useful, whether you're running a business or are just trying to back-up your personal data. 

However, more recently headlines about data hacking have hit the news. For example, in 2018 alone, there were 1,244 data breaches across the United States. Understandably this has led a lot of users to question their cloud security.

Have you found yourself wondering 'is my data secure in the cloud?' recently? If the answer's yes, then you've come to the right place.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about cloud storage safety.

How Does Cloud Storage Work? 

Before we delve into cloud security, it's important that you understand how cloud storage actually works. This is something we use on a daily basis, but a lot of people don't understand the system behind it.

The cloud is a name given to a network of connected servers. This network can include computers, smartphones, and tablets. The main server for a network is usually housed in a warehouse and connects to the devices using the internet.

When you save something to the cloud network, it means that you can access this information from any of the other devices on the network. In order to do this, you'll need to connect to the internet.

Some examples of cloud networks include:

  • Google Drive
  • iCloud
  • DropBox
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Amazon Drive

This is an incredibly useful service if you're running a business with multiple employees or if you want to work remotely. It means that everyone has access to the necessary files and can update these remotely. It's great for file sharing and increasing business' efficiency. 

However, because cloud storage involves your data, it's important to make sure that this is secure at all times.

How Does Cloud Security Work? 

There are several ways that cloud storage works to keep your data security.

Anyone who wants to access documents or files needs to have the correct login and password. Some cloud spaces will allow file owners to create sharable links, which will also give another user access to the file. Depending on the type of link this allows a new user to open, download, or edit documents.

However, your password and login aren't the only lines of defense for your cloud storage. Cloud platforms also use encryption on your data so only you can read them with the proper key. The encryption process varies depending on which cloud provider you use. 

Most of the large cloud providers, like Google and Apple, offer automatic encryption of all files that users upload. This means you don't have to worry about encrypting data as you go.

However, this also means that they hold the key to decrypting your data. This isn't necessarily a problem provided that they store the encryption key safely. If they don't and a hacker gets their hands on it, this can become a problem.

Some smaller cloud services actually let you hold onto the encryption key yourself. They do this by uploading data through specific service applications that only the client has access to. This means that any data you upload to the cloud platform is already encrypted before it gets there. 

Some cloud platforms that offer this include Mega and SpiderOak. But this doesn't necessarily guarantee that your data will remain secure.

So is cloud storage safe? In order to answer this, we need to take a look at some of the risks of using cloud storage. 

Potential Threats to Cloud Security

Cybercriminals can pose a serious threat to cloud storage.

This is because data has become one of the most valuable resources in the digital world. People can use it to access finances, to extort money from people, or simply sell it on for a profit. That's why last year, hackers accessed 7.9 billion records of consumer data.

It doesn't take long for an experienced hacker to get through a weak password. In fact, weak passwords are a huge security threat for businesses across the country. If someone cracks your login details or you have a data leak this leaves you exposed.

However, someone hacking into your system isn't the only danger. In fact, some data thieves save themselves time by simply asking a cloud provider for data. Of course, when they do this they don't tell the provider that they're a hacker.

Most cloud providers have a legal obligation to hand over data to governments or police departments. A hacker can pose as one of these authorities without much difficulty. If your provider doesn't carry out thorough checks on where a data request comes from, this could compromise your data.

Gaining access to these files could put your company in jeopardy. Even if they access personal files, this is still a serious breach of privacy and could end in disaster. This is exactly what happened when iCloud was hacked in 2014 and nude photographs of celebrities were published online.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help protect yourself against this kind of hacking.

Solutions for Cloud Storage Security

There are several things you can do to keep your cloud storage secure. To truly be effective, you should combine these things. 

Make sure that you encrypt any files before you upload them to a cloud platform. If a file is already encoded it is much harder to steal or duplicate.

You should keep it encrypted until you've downloaded it to another computer or device. Decrypt it on the new device so that the version online is always unreadable.

If you use authenticated encryption, a file will also alert you if someone has altered it. That means you'll know if someone has hacked or tried to hack your data. If this all sounds too complicated for you, then there are still things that you can do to protect your data.

You can invest in trustworthy encryption software to encrypt and decrypt your files for you. This might be a good idea if you want to use your cloud platform for file sharing between employees. Each employee will still be able to access files easily via cloud storage. 

Do your research into different cloud platforms to find the most secure one. Any decent platform should have been reviewed by an independent security research team. This team will analyze the security of their upload and download software. 

On top of this, make sure that you always use proper passwords on your accounts, rather than memorable ones. Using different, randomized passwords for each account makes it much harder for a hacker to access your information. You can make them even more secure by using two-factor authentication when you log in.

Finally, make sure that you never save your login details in your internet browser. It might feel like this will save you time but it will leave you vulnerable to hackers.

Benefits of Cloud Storage Solutions

It's easy to get caught up thinking about whether or not your data will be safe online. But don't forget to keep in mind some of the huge benefits of cloud storage.

If you're running a business, cloud storage is much more secure than a hard drive in your office. This is because cloud servers that contain your information are stored in a remote location, far from your business. This location will have proper security 24/7 so that someone can't physically steal your data.

Using the cloud can also protect you from other kinds of security threats as well. For example, malware or ransomware can leave your entire system exposed. These kinds of cyberattacks may mean that you lose precious data and can seriously damage a business.

Fortunately, if you store your data on a cloud platform, you'll be able to recover any data lost in one of these cyber attacks. This means that you'll be able to restore your system quickly to get your business back up and running.

Cloud storage is also one of the cheapest options when it comes to data storage. It costs a lot less than using external hard drives or USB sticks. And it's a lot harder to lose!

You could even invest some of the money that you save on storage into cloud security. For example, you could invest in proper encryption software. In doing this, you'll keep your data safe and save money all in one go!

Is Cloud Storage Secure? 

No online network will ever be one hundred percent secure. However, it is possible to put decent security measures in place to help keep your data safe in the cloud. These will put off hackers and allow you to enjoy all of the security benefits that cloud storage has to offer.

For more information on setting up your cloud security measures, get in touch today to speak to an IT expert. We're here to help!

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