How to protect your personal data in the cloud

cloud-storageAlex Campbell, Eltima

Remember the days when you sent photos to your friends or family members via email or used flash drives to carry data with you? These mundane things of the past have gradually given way to new technologies. When we were first introduced to cloud storage services, we looked at them questioningly—now we can’t imagine life without them. Cloud storage has become part of our life and the number of people who use them increases every day. The simplicity in use and the possibility to access the information anytime, anywhere make cloud storage one of the favorite solutions.

Nowadays there exist a great number of cloud storage solutions which have different terms and conditions of use that can meet the requirements of every user. Among this variety, of course, there are some that are familiar to everybody like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Amazon Drive, Box, etc. They keep your data within reach and let you easily share information by sending links. What more could you ask for?

We trust these services more and more with every passing day, entrusting them with not only our photos from the latest vacation, but also our personal information, thus making the cloud a permanent place for storing all our data no matter if it is sensitive data or not. However, despite the obvious advantages of cloud services, there is a list of disadvantages you should be aware of. Being thoroughly enlightened on the subject, we’ll help you avoid problems in the future.

The question of security when storing and uploading data in the cloud is one of the key issues when working with the cloud storages, especially if we are talking about confidential and private data. It is a known issue that the providers have the ability to view clients’ data if it is not protected, or your data can fall into the hands of hackers who managed to crack the provider’s security systems.

Reliability and availability of data in the cloud depends a lot on the following parameters, such as data channels on the way from a client to a cloud, reliability of the last mile, quality of work of a client’s Internet provider and the availability of a cloud itself at any given time. Also, you shouldn’t forget that cloud storage is not your computer. It belongs to a third-party organization and may be “turned off” at a certain time. So, if you store your important files there, there is a chance of losing them all.

So far, here are several tips on how to secure your data in a cloud:

Minimize or avoid keeping sensitive and personal data in the cloud

It is better not to store your personal and sensitive information in the cloud. There are certain chances that it could be publicly available after some time. You should never store information that can harm you, now or in the future, in a cloud data storage. Even more, this also applies to the Internet as a whole. As you know, there were some cases of user data leakage and its appearance in tabloids.

Use a strong password

You have probably heard this before. But still, a lot of users neglect it not thinking about the consequences. Many even use the same password for all services and don’t bother unique ones. The stronger the password, the better it secures your information. Though creating and memorizing strong passwords for all services could be a real pain. If you don’t know what to do, here’s a tip: Develop an algorithm of your own, according to which you will create unique passwords, and you will never forget them.

Use encryption software

If you do not want your data to be compromised, encrypt it before uploading to a cloud. So far, encryption is considered to be the most reliable way to ensure information protection. Secure messaging apps like Signal with end-to-end encryption are widely used these days. The concept is broadly the same when applied to cloud storages. The data you usually upload in the cloud is first encrypted on your computer and then sent to the cloud. To see the content of the data again you must decrypt it with the private keys that you only own, and this can only be done after you’ve downloaded your files. In short, the cloud storage provider won’t be able to read your data and potential data leaks won’t harm you since the data is encrypted.

The only problem with this approach is that it could become counter productive and cumbersome to encrypt and decrypt your files manually. There are many solutions that streamline this process. At Eltima, we have created CloudMounter, which connects your Mac to popular cloud storage services, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, while encrypting and decrypting your data on the fly. So if your cloud storage account is hacked, nobody can read the data, since only you are able to open the files from your instance of CloudMounter.

Cloud storages have both advantages and disadvantages. Whether to trust your personal data to clouds is a question users have to answer for themselves. But considering the increasing security awareness and pro-privacy regulations like GDPR, you can be sure that companies will invest in creating more secure services and applications.

Alex Campbell is the Senior Manager of Marketing at Eltima.

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