If Your Data Is in the Cloud, Know the Risks
These days, it seems everything's "in the cloud." Grandma's photos from her last cruise. Your scuba trip videos taken in Cancun. Your parents' faded wedding shots. Even sales documents for your new house purchase can live there.
Yet many people have limited understanding of exactly what the cloud is. Given the lengthy list of cloud servers discovered using few or zero data security protections, users should know more.
What is the Cloud?
Some experts believe it's merely shorthand for cloud computing – the process whereby multiple users connect to each other remotely. Others think it's just a newer term for the internet because data is not actually stored in white, fluffy water vapor clouds above. It lives in warehouses.
Many disagree about where the cloud concept originated, but it's irrelevant. Storage conditions are the major issue. Think of these remote servers as massive hard drives around the globe bunched into server farms. Where are these huge repositories? And how secure are they?
Are the Risks Serious?
In 2018, security researchers located a slew of classified Pentagon documents on the web. Any member of the public could access these remote files without a password. No password? Ouch! Doesn't get much riskier than that.
Some hackers have even left warning notes when they discover these unsecured data troves known as buckets.
Several years ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation found close to 50 buckets containing warning notes security experts had left for owners urging them to change or put security measures in place. Other business owners learned of poor practices through established bug bounty programs geared to remedy system weaknesses. But not all companies are easy to breach.
Other risks include: losing your access, credentials compromised, uncertain tech support, equipment failures and data privacy. What would occur if your cloud farm sold your data to another company? Does the firm offer any tech support if you can't access your account?
Note: You will need to read privacy policies to know whether the terms work for you. Also make sure you understand the storage model your cloud service provider (CSP) uses. They're not all the same. Specifically, you want to know how to retrieve your data.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
The cloud makes many nifty data shares possible. Just upload your files to your personal folder. You can then access them from other devices, share them with co-workers, or let friends read your work and view your photos. Numerous services are coming online that allow many types of sharing. Secure those files with a unique password. Multi-factor authentication, if offered, will provide an added layer of protection.
The cloud permits you to sync your phone with family members, your computer at home and other services. Whichever you choose, make sure you consider the risks in detail because you won't have full data control. You still own the data, but the storage company controls it. Consider adding a local backup.
Consider the Costs
Do you suffer from the very real fear of losing photos? t's a common affliction that leaves users afraid of losing precious photographs they have saved on their devices. Whenever a hard drive or smartphone crashes, you may lose all your photos if you don't back up your files properly.
Cloud availability and that fear of losing your photos will prompt many users to save every file ever created. Some companies offer free cloud storage – up to a point. Reach that size limit and expect to pay for additional storage. Even clouds are not free forever. Understand the real cost upfront, so you won't have to rethink the decision later.
It may be tough to research cloud service providers about passwords and other security measures. It's unlikely that you can determine how old the hard drive assigned to your data is or when it might fail.
Instead, ask the company if their systems store multiple copies of files. This will provide you with the best chance of keeping all those irreplaceable photos of your cat.
Ask about data deletion practices, too. Finally, remember that there are some documents that you should think twice about before storing in the cloud. They may include sensitive financial data and other personal details like your Social Security number.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.
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