If you recall it wasn’t too many years ago that the idea of putting personal data into a cloud would have made most consumers and not a few IT professionals shudder. What about security? What if the cloud gets hacked? What about privacy and if someone else sees my personal data? But that was then, this is now. The times have changed quickly, and in just a few short years the cloud has become the bastion of data security. The level of security requirements for a cloud provider today is so high, as it should be, in order to preserve the public trust. In fact, if you could choose between Amazon Cloud Drive and any enterprise system, what would you go with?
Now granted, cyber-crime has become more brazen in recent times. 2014 was a bad year every way you look at it with high profile retailers, banks, and movie studios getting nabbed by hackers. While things appear at times to be getting worse, one silver-lining is that there’s been a resurgence in the field of cyber-security: global cyber-security spending is increasing sharply, cyber-security jobs have skyrocketed, and the cloud security market is also growing by leaps and bounds.
So what this all boils down to is this question; how does one protect personal data in the era of cloud computing? As safe as the cloud is, this does not take the onus off the individual to be extra vigilant and cautious. In the rest of this article we want to walk through some sure-fire techniques that an individual can adopt to protect their data in the cloud today. While there are never any guarantees, following these best practices will go a long ways to protecting your identity and personal information from being exposed and exploited by the bad guys.
1. Stronger passwords
You wouldn’t leave the door to your home open in the middle of the night for potential intruders to enter. Yet, that’s what you do when you don’t secure your password. This seems self-evident but it bears urgent emphasis, especially after the recent year we’ve seen. A sobering thought to add here as well is research shows that the advances in technology have made most passwords hackable; one article suggests 90% of passwords can be cracked in seconds. So don’t forego strong passwords for the sake of convenience.
2. Security questions
More and more businesses today are requiring another level of encryption when creating new accounts; these are in the form of pre-defined security questions. They may seem like a pain at times but don’t ignore their significance. This is another level of protection for your data. Just think of it like having an extra-deadbolt lock on your front door.
3. Beware of phishing attacks
A common means hackers use to capture private data is through spam or fake emails that purport to be from legitimate corporations, banks, or other institutions. Once the bad guys get even a small foothold then they can easily exploit your cloud data. Never click hyperlinks in suspicious or unverified emails, especially ones requesting information or payments. Keep in mind that legitimate institutions that offer payment options will always have HTTPS websites equipped with SSL protection. Implementing desktop and network firewalls and anti-spam email software also will reduce the likelihood of these kinds of attacks.
4. Encrypt your critical files
Encryption is probably the best all-around method for protecting your data. The way this works is that for any files you move to the cloud you use encryption software to require a password for accessing that file. One of the best and easiest tools on the market for handling multiple files and encrypting them is B1 Free Archiver – a free multiplatform compression tool. When creating the archive check the “Protect with a password” option, type in the password, and then you can move the files to the cloud. Whenever you want to share the file(s) with someone, just supply them with the password. Again, this is another level of protection that will stop cyber-thieves in their tracks.
5. Two-step verification
This is also known as 2FA (2 Factor Authentication) and is a process in which an online portal sends you a code via text message or phone that you then need to enter to access your primary account. Some cloud providers like Dropbox and Office 365 already require this second level of security. It’s an extra step, but once you’ve set it up on all of your devices, you are good to go. Several years ago one tech journalist suffered an epic data hack in which invaders got into his Twitter and Google accounts, wiped his iPhone and iPad, and deleted files and irreplaceable family photos that he didn’t have backed up. In the aftermath the journalist wrote that this debacle might’ve been prevented if he had just used Google’s 2FA.
6. Backup your critical data
This should seem self-evident but it bears repeating. Backing up your critical data on a periodic basis is a must-do. It’s an extra step but one that you’ll appreciate if you ever get hacked. Set your system to automatically backup all important data such as financial records, legal information, customer account information, and proprietary databases.
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If you’d like to get onboard with the latest in real-time, cloud-based website monitoring then go on over to Monitis and start a free trial. Knowing that your business-critical data is entrusted to a proven industry leader will give you the peace of mind you deserve. So give Monitis a try today; you’ll be glad you did!