As we have witnessed in the past couple of years, a new trend is emerging on the Internet: Cloud Computing. This Internet service is offered by many well known companies on the web and it allows us to store our data on a secure server so that we can access it from anywhere in the world with only an Internet connection. This online revolution gives us a higher level of productivity, just like the remote access did a few years back. Having our data on a server means that we can quickly access it at any time, from any device and store or retrieve information in no time!
How secure is your data?
Cloud services like Google Drive, Apple iCloud, SkyDrive or Dropbox have pretty secure servers with encryption protocols and powerful firewalls, but you can’t rely on those to keep your data secure. There are steps that you have to make in order to fully protect your personal information and be assured that there is no unauthorized access to your cloud account.
Because services like Google Plus or iTunes allow us to buy directly from the site or in-app, our credit information is stored on their cloud services, and we have to realize that it’s more than our photos that are at risk. Think of your cloud account as your bank account and you will understand the seriousness of the situation.
How do hackers access to your data?
Social Engineering is a method loved by con men that allows them to gain access to your personal information. As a victim of this type of manipulation, I know first hand how easily it can be done. The hacker or con artist persuades you or a server administrator to give information about your account, such as your password, account name or the answer to your personal question.
Old school hacking or guessing your password is the other method by which these Internet pirates operate. Because many of us use simple passwords that are related to us, such as our birthday, the name of our kids or the now popular “password”, hackers can easily gain access to our accounts. Also, some of them use specialized software that uses decryption algorithms that find the password by cycling through each character until it finds the entire password.
How to improve your cloud security
If you are interested in upping your cloud account’s security, here are a few tips for getting you started. Keep in mind that your information needs to be very well protected, otherwise you can be a victim of hackers or con men that are waiting to exploit you.
- Use better passwords. The obvious way to keep other out of your cloud account is to use stronger passwords. Incorporate numbers, letters and special characters in your password, to make it harder to find out. Also, do not use short passwords, the bigger the better and change them regularly. Also, if you have multiple accounts, use a different password for each of them.
- Have multiple email accounts. As you know, most cloud services have the secondary email feature that will help you retrieve your password if you forget it. But this protection feature implemented in many cloud based systems is a very big liability. If you use the same email account for multiple cloud accounts, it’s enough for someone to gain access to this email account and he can then access any other account linked to it. If you do not want to use multiple accounts, at least protect it with a strong password and change it on weekly basis.
- Be careful who you share with. Cloud services allow file sharing with other people, but be careful who you share your files with, and make sure they take the necessary precautions to secure their account. If their account is compromised, so are the files you have shared with them.
- Limit the use of third party apps. Cloud storage services allow you to use third party apps, like organizers. But be careful what you install, some of these might contain malicious software that can potentially lead to your account being compromised. Recommended would be to only use services provided by trusted developers, such as Google, Apple or Microsoft and others that have a reputation and stay away from shady developers.
- Use a good Antivirus and Firewall. Because protection is of the utmost importance in the digital era, a proper Antivirus software is necessary. There are lots of free antivirus programs that work great, but in my personal opinion, it’s best to purchase a subscription to an antivirus software that offers a firewall and Internet security. Also, keep in mind that you have to update it on a daily basis. An antivirus is only as good as its database.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication. This feature is just now starting to appear on the web and it offers top notch protection. It lets you know when someone is trying to access your account and it sends you a text message with an authentication code, without which no one is able to access your account. Google, Blizzard Entertainment and others have the option of generating a code, available for a limited period (1 minute or so), and when you log in to your account, it prompts you for the code. If you own a smartphone, then the apps are available for download. But the SMS text version is just as effective.
Of course, there are other methods of securing your cloud account, but this is a list of the most simple tricks you can make to give your security an uplift. As you have seen, Google is still experimenting with the face unlock feature, available for Android devices, now better for the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, but it still can be broken. Maybe in the future we will have biometric scanners in our smartphones and this will ensure the security of our data, but until then, we will just have to make due with what we have.