How to secure your data in the Cloud
Storing data in the cloud is often useful to users: from syncing data between devices to cloud-based backups and sharing options. While local storage still dominates, the use of cloud storage has grown considerable in the past decade.
It should not come as a surprise that cloud storage solutions are offered on every corner of the Internet. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have created solutions that are used by millions, if not billions, of users. Even while these large players dominate the market, there are thousands of other options to choose from.
While all offer free or paid storage in the cloud, what they offer next to that may differ significantly. When users select a cloud storage provider, they need to make sure that their data is safe and secure. Unauthorized access to data can lead to leaks and all kinds of troubles.
The following tips help making sure that cloud data is well protected.
Tip 1: Encryption is key
The cloud provider should support end-to-end encryption. Most storage providers protect data when it is transferred, but end-to-end encryption is a level up as it prevents anyone, even the cloud provider, from accessing files.
Proton Drive and pCloud are two providers that support end-to-end encryption. Both offer free accounts, with 1 gigabyte and 10 gigabyte of storage, and paid plans to get more storage. There are more, and Internet searches will reveal those providers.
Another option is to encrypt data right on the local device before sending it to cloud storage; this does not work with some data, e.g., browser data that is synced so that bookmarks and tabs are accessible across all devices, but it works with static files.
Most file archivers, WinRAR or 7-Zip for example, support encryption, and there are dedicated applications available, like Cryptomator, which automate the process for the user.
Tip 2: Protect the account properly
Encryption is key, but the key to unlock the data is the user's account password. Users who set up accounts with weak passwords and no additional security protections may have their accounts cracked in a matter of minutes.
Therefore, it is essential to select a unique strong password for the account and add additional protection to it. Most cloud providers support two-factor authentication at the very least, requiring that a second code is entered, which is generated in real-time using authentication apps or other means.
Passwordless authentication is on the rise, but many providers do not support it at the time.
Tip 3: Consider what to upload and what to keep local
Not all files need to be pushed to the cloud. Cloud storage may make certain operations more convenient, may act as a backup for important data, and may also help when it comes to syncing passwords, browser data or other data that is in use regularly.
Whether other types of data, say the entire family photo library, a mp3 collection, or fan fiction collection, need to be placed is up for debate. Some users like the idea of having access to the data anywhere. You may want to avoid uploading sensitive data to the cloud, or use extra encryption to protect this data even more.
Tip 4: Keep local copies of cloud files
Cloud access is tied to an account and if access to the account is lost, e.g., password and password recovery can't be used anymore, or if a cloud provider decides to close the account, then data access is no longer possible. A local copy of files ensures that data is still accessible in those cases.
Consider buying an external hard drive for backups, if local drives are not large enough to hold regular backups.
Tip 5: Control access to the cloud
One of the main advantages of storing files in the cloud is that they can be accessed from anywhere. Users may use their own devices for that, but they can also log in from public computers or devices that someone else owns.
While it is certainly better not to sign-in to cloud storage on public computers, it is essential to make sure that you sign-out when you do. Others may access the data if you do not sign-out, which would torpedo the entire security setup.
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