Cloud storage is a digital service that allows you to store your digital information, including documents, images, videos, and other files, on servers usually managed by an outside provider, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox. Cloud storage offers convenience—access your digital files anywhere—and simplicity—keep all your files in one place, even when you change devices. But is it safe?
In this post, we’ll explore ways in which you can balance the ease-of-use of cloud storage with safety, ensuring that your data is secure.
Is cloud storage safe?
Before we delve into security tips for cloud storage, it’s important to answer this important question. Many readers may wonder, if cloud storage requires tips for enhancing security, is it wise to use it at all?
There are risks to using cloud storage. However, every form of data storage, from backing your files up onto a hard drive in your home or office to keeping paper copies of documents, comes with risks. And when you are physically responsible for protecting your files, beyond theft, they may also be accidentally lost, misplaced, or damaged in a fire, flood, or other disaster event. Cloud storage eliminates these physical risks.
Additionally, cloud storage services encrypt all files, meaning that only individuals with access to cloud storage (and not even the service providers themselves) are able to view your data.
In other words, cloud storage is relatively safe, as long as only you or other trusted users are accessing the cloud. Unauthorized access is the largest risk. Let’s take a look at ways to protect your account from it.
1. Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication are vital.
Because of increased accessibility, gatekeeping is crucial to keep your data safe. Reusing passwords, using easily guessable passwords, and skipping multi-factor authentication puts your data at risk, and it’s a mistake that’s simple to avoid.
Like all of your digital accounts, cloud storage is only as secure as your password. Passwords that have appeared in data breaches and that you have used on other accounts (or any variation of these passwords, where only one character or number is changed) should never be used. Choose long, unique, and complex passwords—whether it’s a passphrase (like a quote from your favorite book), a password generated by your secure password manager, or a new one that you come up with yourself. Be sure to include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
What is the best way to strengthen your login protections?
An additional and essential layer of security is multi-factor authentication (MFA). This is where, beyond your password, another method of authenticating a login is required. From sending a code through a text message to using biometric identification through your phone, this added protection can be substantial: MFA blocks 99.9% of modern automated cyberattacks, 96% of bulk phishing attempts, and 76% of targeted attacks.
2. Carefully manage access to the cloud.
From other members of your family to employees at your business, with many cloud storage services you have the ability to grant other users accessto your stored files. Before you do, consider if they will use the same standards that you will to protect your data.
How can you balance shared access with security?
With many types of cloud storage, it’s possible to set permissions for each file or permission levels for each user, allowing you to be selective about how you share your data. Instead of sharing every file with grandpa, consider simply sharing a photo album. In your business, assign access to only the files each employee needs by setting restrictions or permissions to individual folders.
In addition to offering greater flexibility for file sharing, taking the time to build an organizational system for your files that allows you to manage access easily, using folders and sub-folders, lets you better stay on top of your data, facilitates workflow, and can help you manage data migrations.
3. Limit what you store on the cloud.
It can be easy to set up your devices to automatically back up to cloud storage—and these backups can be crucial in protecting your sensitive data from losses. However, despite advanced encryption, cloud storage still has some vulnerabilities. Accessibility, in fact, can be the source of one of its biggest threats. Because cloud storage can be accessed anywhere, a third party could potentially gain access to stored data. Selectively choosing what to store in your cloud and what to store onsite can help protect your sensitive information.
What shouldn’t you store in the cloud?
Generally, you want to avoid storing critical data in the cloud. Personal and financial information can be stored in a secured, password-protected external drive. Bank account information and other financial documents, scans of birth certificates and other forms of identification, proprietary information, and private legal documents are all items that may be better left off the cloud.
For personal cloud storage, stick to the cloud for photos, videos, and other large documents that you don’t want to store locally. This not only makes them more accessible from your other devices, but it allows you to free up space on your personal devices. For businesses, if you must store sensitive files on the cloud, consider an additional layer of encryption, and always keep a backup offline.
4. Turn on account alerts.
Many storage accounts offer a wide variety of alerts: Alerts for when a new device logs into an account, alerts for when a login attempt was made, alerts for when someone changes an account setting, and more. Alerts can notify you before data is lost or stolen. Alerts can also be valuable tools to stop the bleeding—even if they don’t protect your account from hacking—allowing you to act quickly to protect your account from further harm.
What do you do when you receive a security alert?
Before you act, be sure that the alert is genuine, and not a phishing or hacking attempt.
Once you’ve confirmed the alert, you’ll want to first immediately change your password(s) and activate multifactor authentication (MFA) for every account linked to the cloud service provider. Then, reach out to the security team of the cloud service provider to inform them of the breach and see if any other steps are necessary for securing the account.
Once you’ve done these initial steps, examine all accounts for signs of suspicious behavior, unauthorized files, or unexplained changes. Safeguard essential data by creating backups in case the hacker attempts to erase or steal it, at this time. Finally, if the breach has happened in a place of business, inform all relevant parties, including staff, associates, and clients.
5. Keep devices safe.
As good as your cloud security is, if a device used to access it is compromised, cybercriminals may still be able to get to your data. From
How can you protect your devices?
Always enable passcodes, passwords, or lock screens to block unauthorized access to a device. And of course, make sure passcodes and passwords are strong, not reused, and hard to guess. Google, Apple, and other tech providers offer options to help you locate and lock lost or stolen devices, so be sure to set this up as soon as you have a new phone, computer, or tablet.
Additionally, always keep your devices up-to-date, approving software and operating system upgrades. When devices are no longer supported, it’s time to upgrade to something new. Places of business may also want to install additional anti-viral software for an added layer of security.
Keep Your Financial Information Safe
At First National Bank & Trust Company of Newtown, the safety and security of your financial accounts and personal information is our top priority. From enhanced security measures for digital banking to security alerts for suspected fraud, we work hard to keep accounts protected and customers aware.
For more ways to keep your personal information and financial accounts safe, check out our post, 5 Cybersecurity Trends to Protect Yourself in 2023. And remember, The First will never send emails regarding account deactivation, account lockouts, or other problems with your account.