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Are cloud storages safe?
Monday, April 26, 2021
Cloud-based data storage services are often regarded as a suitable alternative to local hard drives. And there are several reasons for this.
First, thanks to online file storage providers, users are able to access their data from anywhere—as long as they have Internet access. Second, opting for hosting services often proves to be more cost-efficient than keeping files on conventional hard drives and SSDs; the same goes for using somewhat more exotic NAS solutions or setting up a local file server in a neighbouring room. The general rule is fairly simple: the more storage space required, the more cost-efficient online hosting services become.
However, there are certain aspects to these cloud-based storages that users need to be aware of. And, among them, the security issue is probably the most important. Major file-hosting and cloud service providers that really try to take care of their customers and value their reputation ensure that user data is always stored in an encrypted format by default. Because of this, any third party will at the least have a harder time extracting whatever information they may be looking for. However, normally there is no way for us to check whether the file storage we're choosing will indeed keep our data encrypted and well protected. Therefore, we are left to place our trust in the service provider's diligence and professionalism.
Moreover, to use a cloud storage, we have to upload our information to the service via the Internet—which can also pose a security risk. If the data is not transmitted via a secure channel, attackers can intercept it with relative ease. For example, if you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot in a coffee shop or an airport, there is a huge risk that your traffic will be intercepted and tapped into and, as a consequence, your data will end up getting stolen before it gets to the safety of the online storage.
And there is also a problem with the same login and password being used with multiple accounts online—a very common issue but by no means less serious. Using the same credentials to access different services greatly increases the risk of data leaks. Should at least one of the accounts get compromised (e.g., your social media login and password), the attackers will find themselves in possession of the keys to unlock all of their target's doors—wherever the credentials are used to sign in.
The Anti-virus Times recommends
- For cloud services, choose one of the large, respected companies. Don't take chances by entrusting your data to less known, low-budget file-hosting providers.
- If you have to store away a piece of sensitive information, make sure that you place it into a password-protected archive or encrypt it before you upload the data to a storage provider's server. This will serve as additional insurance against situations when your data may be stored unencrypted or someone gains unauthorised access to your account. That way, even if the file-hosting service gets compromised, attackers will have a much harder time extracting the files you have protected yourself.
- Don't use public networks to access file-hosting services – threat actors may tap into such networks and siphon off your data while it is being transmitted to the storage. Make sure that you always access your chosen cloud drive over a secure connection.
- Never use the same credentials with multiple accounts. Should they ever get compromised, you will risk losing all your accounts. Periodically change your passwords—at least once or twice a year.
- Make use of two-factor authentication to minimise the risk of someone hacking into or hijacking your accounts.
- Use an anti-virus to prevent your PCs, laptops and mobile devices from getting infected with trojans that steal logins and passwords and other sensitive information.