While the top cloud storage services go to great lengths to protect your files from loss and your account from hackers, you still have some responsibility.
Follow these tips to ensure that your files are safe and readily accessible whenever you need them.
Keep your computer and devices updated
Stay current with the latest operating system version available for your computer and mobile devices. Older OS versions tend to contain security vulnerabilities.
Create a strong password
Establish a strong password for both your PC and your cloud storage account, e.g., use combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use a short password or one that’s easy to guess. Also, never share your password or send it to yourself in an email. To keep track of long, complex passwords, consider a password management app that you can access from your PC, browser, and phone.
Use Microsoft Defender
While most cloud storage services scan for viruses on upload, you should also keep your local copies of those files clean. For PC owners running Windows 10, there’s no need to pay for an anti-virus service when you have Microsoft Defender Antivirus built into your machine. This software gives you comprehensive, ongoing, and real-time protection against software threats like viruses, malware, and spyware across email, apps, the cloud, and the web.
Encrypt your hard drive
Most work laptops use BitLocker to encrypt local files. That way, if the computer is stolen or hacked, the data it contains will be useless to the malicious actor. If you have a work laptop, it’s a great idea to enable encryption on it.
Encrypt your mobile device
If you use a cloud storage mobile app, be sure to enable encryption on your iOS or Android device. This measure protects your local files if your mobile device is lost, stolen, or subjected to unauthorized access.
Add security information to your cloud storage account
Your cloud storage provider usually offers security controls that enable you to access your account if you forget your password. These include storing your phone number, providing an alternate email address, and a security question/answer pair. Take advantage of these functions. It will make it easier to regain access to your account. Or, if your account gets hacked, the cloud storage provider can use your security information to verify your identity and restore access to your account.
This additional level of security, aka multi-factor authentication MFA, protects your account by requiring you to enter a security code, a physical USB authentication key or your fingerprint whenever you attempt to log in from an untrusted device. A hacker might try to impersonate you if they can steal your username and password. It’s usually much harder for them to get past your second authentication factor, especially if you don’t use easy-to-guess words like your pet’s name.
Choose a cloud service that uses encryption
Most cloud services encrypt your files at rest and in-transit. Be sure that your provider offers these services. Often, the provider itself holds the encryption keys, meaning they can access your data. However, the top providers maintain strong internal controls that prevent employees from accessing those keys or your files.
Ransomware is a form of cyberattack that involves criminals encrypting your documents, your entire drive or your company’s entire network of servers. You are then locked out of all your files and apps until you pay a ransom, usually in a cryptocurrency. Check to see if your provider offers ransomware detection and recovery. If they do, you can have peace of mind knowing that all of your cloud files and your local files synced to the cloud are safe in the event of an attack.
Is your cloud provider scanning your files, photos and content to target ads at you? Are they selling your information to third parties? It’s worth checking into what a cloud provider might have the right to do with your private files. If you value privacy, consider choosing a service that does not sell your data to third parties, does not share your data without permission, and does not scan your photos, files or personal content to target ads to you.
It is possible to keep your files highly safe in the cloud. Indeed, most cloud storage providers have extensive security measures in place.
You still bear some responsibility for cloud storage security, however. First, it’s essential to select a storage provider with the right mix of security controls in place. Then, it’s up to you to engage in vigorous security practices yourself, such as using strong passwords.
You’re safe, so go for it! If you’re not using cloud storage, this may a good time to start.