Appropriate Paranoia: Information in Cloud Storage

Appropriate Paranoia: Information in Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is the storage of your information on a distant hard drive which you access via the internet. By using cloud storage, people are able to store large amounts of data without personally owning and operating the hardware on which it is stored; users are also able to access the data from multiple locations and devices without the need to run their own online server. Cloud storage is undeniably useful, but security can be a major issue. Read on to understand the risks.

The security risk of cloud storage is a result of the data being accessible via the internet. In theory, the data you store online is protected by encryption which only you can unlock, but:

  • Encryption can be broken by a computer, given enough time.
  • Encryption can be side-stepped, for example by an employee of the company managing the cloud storage.
  • Some encryption systems have built-in "back doors," which are like a second password and allow access to your data.
  • As your data is online, attempts to access it can be made continuously at a distance, at low risk to the hacker.
  • Your data may be hacked as a side-effect of another hack; that is to say, you do not have to be the specific target of a hack for your data to be compromised.

The vast majority of the time, none of the above happens and cloud data is safe, but the potential is very real and caution should be used. The question you need to ask yourself is: Do the benefits of storing this data online outweigh the risks?

Any piece of data kept in cloud storage should be regarded as potentially accessible by unauthorized people, so feel free to upload your personal budget, photos of your dog, and a poem you wrote on your lunch break, but do not upload your company's financial records, personal sex tapes, or the manuscript for the novel you have spent the last twelve years writing. It only takes one hack, glitch, or disgruntled cloud employee for your data to be compromised.

If you are smart about what data you place in cloud storage, you'll be just fine. If you assume that a cloud storage service is safe simply because it is convenient or because the company providing it is well-regarded, you may find yourself in a terrible position. Be smart. Be safe. Be a little bit paranoid.