Stay safe in the Cloud

What is cloud computing?

In simple terms, cloud computing is a method of storing files and data in a centralized network that can be reached from anywhere and by any type of device. This includes mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. The notion of the “cloud” is because this data is placed in a network where say someone in NYC could access as well as someone in California.

Many people use cloud-based computer services and they don’t even know it. Consumers access and share information using remote server networks whenever they log on to social networks, like LinkedIn or Facebook, edit photos on Flickr, blog with WordPress, or create files using Google Docs. These are examples of cloud computing, which, simply defined, is how we store and share data, applications and computing power on the Internet.

Is it safe?

While there are so many advantages from using the cloud to store your data, of course there’s the question of safety and security. Primarily, the method of cloud computing is an extremely safe way to store data. Most companies have a system in place with their own firewalls and anti-virus software to protect their data stored on the premises. The issue comes about when computing is outsourced, and the control over security is no longer in your hands

Here are some tips to protect your data in the cloud:

Look for a Secure Web Address: Before shopping online or giving any sort of personal information, look at the URL—if the website is secure connection enabled, it will have an ‘s’ after the ‘http’ portion of the URL. An ‘https’ URL tells you the website has an SSL license, meaning your information is scrambled as it travels across the internet.

Don’t Provide Personal Information: Don’t put anything in the cloud you would not want others to see, especially the government or a private litigant. A credible website will never need sensitive personal information, like your social security, PIN, or bank account numbers. If a site you don’t trust asks you for anything personal, don’t trust it! It could be a phishing scam trying to gain access to your personal information.  Pay close attention if the cloud provider reserves rights to use, disclose, or make public your information.

Create Strong Passwords: Make long passwords with at least eight or more characters. For added security, include punctuation, symbols and a mix of upper and lowercase letters. Don’t ever use the same password for all of your accounts and change them at least once a month.

Be Wary of Downloads: Don’t ever download a file from a website you don’t trust. There’re many malicious websites out there which let you download corrupted files with viruses and trojans that can infect your computer and steal your personal information.

Check for Site Updates: Credible websites are updated often with security measures. Look around to see when the site was last updated. If it’s been more than a couple of months, you might not trust the site.

Look for Contact Information: If you’re thinking about purchasing something from a website, look for the company’s contact information, including a physical address and a telephone number. This information is usually in the website’s footer. Don’t assume that a phone number is real—always call and ask questions to make sure the company is legitimate.

Read the Privacy Policy: Read the privacy policy before placing your information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the policy, consider using a different provider. Also make sure that the cloud provider gives advance notice of any change in the terms of service or privacy policy.  Read the Terms of Service before placing any information in the cloud. If you don’t understand the Terms of Service, consider using a different cloud provider.

Leaving the Cloud: Know exactly what happens when you remove your data from the cloud provider. Does the cloud provider still retain rights to your information? If so, consider whether that makes a difference to you.

Delete Cookies Often: Cookies are small files designed to track your web activity. When you enter information into a site, such as a user name and password, the site uses cookies to remember your information so you don’t have to enter it the next time you visit. Hackers can use cookies to gain access to your accounts, so you should delete them often. Deleting cookies differs depending on which browser you use, but it’s usually found in your browser’s privacy settings.