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Is Your Data Safe On The Cloud?

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Over the last few years, cloud based storage has become incredibly popular among businesses as well as individuals. A cloud based storage solution not only offers easy access to data from anywhere but it is also cost effective and scalable. However, before subscribing to a cloud storage service, you also need to evaluate the security risks associated with it. In this article, we will discuss the common security problems associated with cloud based solutions and suggest few tips on how to choose the best provider for your needs.

Here are Six (6) Steps to Check if Your Data is Safe:

Step 1: The first thing you need to check is how a particular provider protects your data. Most companies rely on passwords to restrict access to files but you must remember that passwords can be breached by using sophisticated hacking tools. In such a scenario, it is a good idea to use strong passwords that include a mix of alphabets, special characters and numbers and do not resemble common words or phrases. It is also a good idea to zip your data files (or folders) and password protect the zipped files for a double layer of password protection.

Step 2: Next, you need to verify whether or not the provider encrypts your files during storage and while the data transfer (upload/download) is in progress. Most reputed providers encrypt files on their servers so even if some gains access to them; they won’t be able to decrypt them without the correct key. For enhanced security during data transit, the provider must use secure connections while the uploading or downloading is in progress. To check whether your company uses a secure connection, just check for HTTPS right at the beginning of the upload or download URL. Since most cloud companies provide their own apps, you also need to check whether the app uses a secure connection.

Step 3: Next, you need to check how the company provides access to the files. Some companies provide access to stored data via local configuration files that can easily be carried on a USB stick. However, accessing your data through a configuration file is not the smartest option since it is open to attacks especially on unsecured networks (for example, public Wi-Fi hotspots). If you do need to access data via config files, consider subscribing to a VPN solution like HideMyAss, IPVanish or ExpressVPN to ensure that your data remains out of bounds of hackers and data sniffing programs.

Step 4: Next, you need to dig in detail how the company allows you to share data. Does the company allow you to share data with a select group of people or with general public? If it is possible to share data with others, can they modify your files as well? If the modification is allowed, how would you know who has modified the file and when? In addition, you also need to check whether your personal data is visible when you are sharing files with others.

Step 5: Next, you need to verify whether the cloud provider is SSAE16 Type II compliant. Only the SSAE16 compliant companies are able to deliver a robust security framework that guarantees the safety and security of data. The information may be tucked away within Terms of Service or Privacy Policy pages so you would need to read the company’s policy documents in detail.

Step 6: Finally, you also need to check the jurisdiction under which the company operates. This is an important consideration since most companies (including those based in US) would comply with local judicial orders and hand over data to law enforcement agencies when they receive a court notice. You also need to verify whether the data is stored at one location or gets backed up at multiple locations. Companies having data centers at multiple locations are better prepared to handle natural disasters and downtimes due to technical issues.

On the whole, your data is a lot safer on cloud than on an unsecured laptop, DVD or USB stick. However, you can definitely follow some best practices to enhance the security of your data and keep local backup copies of your important documents so that you do not lose them in case your cloud account gets compromised.

May 12, 2014

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