When the concept of cloud storage hit the consumer market, people seemed relieved to finally have an answer to all of their data backup woes. Instead of juggling floppy disks, CDs, and hard drives, everything we wanted to save could be automatically sent into a seemingly magical, digital “cloud” in the sky. There were no wires or hours of uploading involved; many of us were so pleased with the ease of using cloud storage that we didn’t bother to ask too many questions about cloud security.
However, especially in recent months, some of the issues with cloud storage have come to light. We’ve observed a theme among several data breaches—namely, that data stored in the cloud was not quite as secure as some businesses and customers believed.
Cloud technology has revolutionized the way we store our data, but if you’re going to continue to utilize this form of backup, it’s important to understand how cloud security and storage works.
What Is Cloud Storage?
We hate to be the ones to break the news to you, but your data isn’t actually living in a cool digital cloud in the sky. Remember all that annoying backup hardware you were happy to get rid of? It’s still a factor in this storage equation, but it just lives on the company’s property rather than yours.
For example, Amazon is a big provider of cloud storage to both individuals and businesses. They own and maintain the network-connected hardware and software you need to store your information and make it available to you via an easy web platform. The data is usually encrypted and protected behind permissions and access controls.
Is Cloud Storage Safe?
As an identity theft protection company, we’ve seen it all. That doesn’t mean we don’t trust the cloud, it just means we know there’s always the potential for breaches and unauthorized access to occur. That being said, the cloud (like most things in life) has both pros and cons.
Cloud Storage Pros :
- Easy to use and access
- Relatively inexpensive
- No worries about losing portable hardware
Cloud Storage Cons:
- Not all cloud storage offers the same level of security
- You need to fully trust a company to protect your data without knowing how they operate
- You can’t access your data without an internet connection
One of the most frustrating things for some people is that no matter how diligent they are about their own personal storage practices, they can never know what other companies are doing with their information.
A recent example of this happened in September 2017, when job seekers with Top Secret clearance found out their personal information was publicly available on an unsecured Amazon bucket site. Those job seekers had worked with a private security firm, TigerSwan, which had been working with a third-party vendor, TalentPen. TigerSwan ended its relationship with TalentPen, and TalentPen placed files on a bucket site to transfer back to TigerSwan. This is common practice, but once those files were transferred, TalentPen didn’t take them down—they remained on a site without any password or security for about six months.
In the TigerSwan/TalentPen situation, what could those individual job seekers have done to protect themselves? They likely had no idea what was going on. How many times do you think your personal information has been juggled around the clouds of various companies and left in unsecured situations?
The full scope of the technical side of cloud security remains to be seen, but it’s clear that some of the biggest security issues don’t stem from hackers or criminals—it’s the carelessness of companies who use the cloud to store sensitive information. In the world of cloud storage, one of the best ways to keep personal data safe is by exercising a great deal of caution, and plenty of common sense.