Is your personal data safe in the cloud?

Digital transformation has a way of not just changing technology, but impacting society as a whole by fostering technologies that make life easier and benefit society. Yet these same technologies can also impact our lives in a more concerning way. It seems like cloud is becoming a method of moving through life. We have become comfortable with the idea of storing our personal and private data in the cloud and Internet – whether it being via Dropbox, iCloud or even social media. Additionally, we live in a hyper-connected society where we can access applications whenever we want, just by using our mobile devices. However, many of us do not consider the privacy aspect of the cloud applications we are using.

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Protecting data in the cloud

Without a doubt, cloud computing is one of those technologies that has a massive impact on many areas in our society: Having a social impact on how we communicate through social media, offering students the ability to access data anywhere and participate in online classes, making it possible for the healthcare industry to manage patient data and the list goes on.
But with almost everything stored in the cloud and our increasingly online presence, the Internet is also making it harder for us to control our own lives. There is a lack of transparency for citizens’ on how, when, why and where our data is processed.

Related: When, where and what about cloud services.

If you think for a minute, do you know what happens to a snap after you viewed it? Or do you know what happens to your credit card information after you have made a purchase? In general, we trust our bank and credit card company but should we also trust the online shop or the online gaming company? Mobile devices, in particular with their limited storage and computing capabilities, are drivers for having services provided by cloud computing instead of using software on individual computers. Even data that is transferred from one mobile device to another (local) device is often transferred via the cloud. Therefore, users often put themselves at risk without noticing this, as they assume that their personal data is transferred locally. Not knowing how your data is processed increases security risks like identity theft.
Because of that, following is a few common steps you can take to protect yourself when using cloud services:

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If you are accessing the cloud from a wireless network at home, work or an institution, a firewall can be used to prevent attackers and criminals from getting access to your cloud-accessing device.

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Another step is to regularly review the permissions granted to apps downloaded to your phone. Many do not know that their phone is uploading data to the net. Stopping apps from uploading data automatically to the cloud is a great way to add an extra layer of defense.

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When accessing the cloud, make sure your Internet connection is encrypted by using the Internet https protocol. If the https protocol is not used by your cloud application, then consider if you should find another cloud application and vendor for the job you need done.

The cloud and IoT

Looking forward, the cloud is not the only issue. When talking about security in the cloud, it is hard not to mention the Internet of Things (IoT). The cloud and the Internet of Things are inseparable meaning that IoT requires the cloud to work and the cloud will also evolve to serve better IoT. We are not just uploading data to the cloud and the Internet, but more and more people now expect everything to be connected in some way. No matter if it is a TV, dishwasher or refrigerator, they all communicate or will at some point communicate with cloud servers. This also means that, not only do “things” connect to the Internet but also connect to each other, giving new dimensions to data security that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, with all this connectivity and networking, we are not yet seeing a focus on privacy and security from manufactures. It might take a few privacy accidents for the industry to wake up and understand that anything connected must come with well-defined and well-implemented security. Making it even more important to be aware and take a few precautions yourself when engaging with cloud applications.

Remember that the cloud and digital transformation and everything that comes with it – good or bad, is not some futuristic development we may or may not experience in the future. It is happening right now. And the outburst in Internet and cloud-enabled devices is one more reason cloud-based systems usage will explode in the next several years. This means that we need to take greater responsibility for our own protection by becoming better informed and more motivated to invest in securing our online presence.

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