Before we talk about internet security, I want to thank the team at HowtoTech for giving me the opportunity to reach out to their readers. If you want more awesome information on how to keep your accounts and information secure, check out How To Protect Your Android Phone from Being Hacked and How to Protect Your Data While Working Remotely. Stay safe!
There’s a reason everybody is using cloud storage. Most people are using multiple electronic devices daily, and cloud storage allows you to access and update your saved files from your personal computer, your work device and your smart phone without annoying manual transfers and worrying about which edits are the most recent. In addition, you can use cloud services to easily back up your information in case something goes wrong with your hardware, and to share files with other people for work, school or leisure.
However, as with any internet-based service, there are security concerns. Hackers spend their lives trying to devise new ways to free up information that they can use for profit and try to keep up with them is a constant battle. How do you make sure your connection to cloud storage is secure, and how do you protect your information once it’s stored?
Choose a Secure Username and Password
This is the most basic security tip for any internet-based account, and it’s as relevant now as ever.
Choose a password that:
- are a mix of numbers and both lowercase and uppercase letters
- doesn’t include any dictionary words or personal information (such as your name, street or alma mater)
- isn’t a repeat of your password for any other site
Secure passwords can be really hard to remember, and if you write them down on a piece of paper or in a document, you might damage their efficacy. Luckily for all of us, there are some security-focused cloud storage services such as LastPass, which will keep your passwords safe and allow you to log in with a click.
Use a VPN
You should be using a VPN already, but in case you aren’t, we’ll go over the basics.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure “tunnel” between the source of information and its destination, which prevents anyone from intercepting the data you send. It will also encrypt that data for a double layer of defense and mask your IP address to obscure the source of the data. VPNs were originally invented so that employees could access company networks while working remotely, but now they’re put to a variety of uses that mostly involve securing information and protecting the identities of users.
For a review of VPN services, check out the Secure Thoughts website.
Double Check Your Sharing Settings
Make sure you know exactly who can access each of your files and, if applicable, who can edit them.
While you’re at it, revoke file-editing privileges from people who no longer need them. Even if you trust them completely with your information, this connection can still be an “in” for hackers.
Periodically Look for the Presence of Sensitive Information
Make sure that there isn’t sensitive information that you no longer need sitting around in your cloud storage account.
Sensitive information may include:
- phone numbers
- Social Security numbers
- email addresses, usernames, and passwords
- bank or credit card information
- personal pictures
- data from businesses or other organizations in which you take part
- financial records
- health information
- any other information that shouldn’t be shared
Maybe you would never save your bank information to the cloud, but someone you gave editing permission to may have added a phone number or the name of your child’s school. When it comes to hacking, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Minimize the damage that a security breach can do by removing any information that could be used against you.
Do Your Homework on the Services You’re Using
You should always be checking the terms of service when you sign up for a website, but many of us neglect to do so and don’t think about the possible consequences.
You can also Google the service to see what other people are saying about it. You might learn about cases such as:
- iCloud’s lack of two-factor authentication, which led to the leakage of photos of Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence.
- Google’s security failure in March of 2011, which led to the deletion of 150,000 Google accounts.
- A class action lawsuit against DropBox in 2011 for failing to employ best security practices and to notify users of a data breach.
Keep All Your Accounts Safe
Unfortunately, one data breach can lead to others, especially if the accounts are connected like Gmail and Google Docs.
In addition to the steps listed above, which apply directly to your cloud storage account, make sure that the rest of your accounts are secure too. For example:
- Set a login password for your computer.
- Use a firewall.
- Keep all your programs updated for security fixes.
- Make sure you have a quality anti-virus running at all times.
- Don’t open or respond to suspicious emails. If you are unsure whether an email is legitimate or not, call the company to confirm.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever it’s available.
- Sign out of all accounts when you’re done using them.
- Change passwords regularly.
Are you on the cloud storage bandwagon? What service are you using? Have you ever had a security leak? Let us know in the comments below!