Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Cloud Computing Safe?

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There’s a reason cloud computing is the latest and greatest IT buzzword: it’s really, really useful. With ‘the cloud’ we can backup and remotely access our files, work on documents through a web-based word processor, play the latest PC games on a tablet or smartphone, and much much more.

One of the other great things is ease of use, it’s instantly and easily accessible to anyone, even basic computers or phones can make use of cloud technology. But this raises the issue of security - just how safe is cloud computing?Internet securityThe problem with any cloud solution is that you’re placing your data in someone else's hands. We’d all like to think that a company offering to store files remotely will have necessary precautions in place to prevent security breaches but the truth is that no system is completely secure.

For example: LastPass.com is a service which stores passwords under a single master password so you don’t have to remember logins for every web site. Incredibly useful, and you’d think if anyone was safe it’d be these guys, but last year they admitted to a security breach in which some user logins and encrypted password containers may have been stolen. The company was quick to act in response but it’s still worrying. A higher profile example is the Sony Playstation Network hack where the details of 77 million PSN users were exposed, resulting in Sony taking the PS3’s network offline for several weeks.

These incidents (Google for many more) show just how vulnerable your data can be. When you upload files or information to a server you have no idea where it’s going to end up or who may be able to see it. Often it’s not a major worry, if someone breaks into your Dropbox they may only end up with a few music files and images, but as cloud computing becomes more commonplace we’re sending an increasing amount of data with little thought of the consequences.

That doesn’t mean you need to stop using Dropbox or Google Docs, but exercising some caution and upping your security awareness will help protect you.

Tips for safe cloud computing:

- Stick to the big players. High profile companies like Google and Microsoft have money to spend on security and a reputation to maintain, they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by not ensuring the highest level of safety. Smaller outfits may have less experienced people and just can’t offer the same security. If it hasn’t happened already there will almost certainly be cloud services operated by scammers purely for the purpose of gaining access to your files and personal info.

- Be careful with sensitive data. You’ve got no idea who may have access to files on a cloud server so don’t upload anything you wouldn’t want other people seeing, or if you do make sure it’s password protected.

- Use strong passwords. Long passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and special characters (if allowed) will greatly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your account. This is absolutely essential. Make use of password generators to create random passphrases and password managers so you don’t need to memorize each one.

Author Bio: This post is written by Matt Powell. He is writing ‘Is cloud computing safe’ on behalf of Broadband Genie. Make sure you have a quick broadband internet connection to have uninterrupted access.

Image: iStockphoto

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