Feature

How secure is cloud storage?

Cloud storage has become wildly popular over the last decade. Gone are the days when you had to worry about losing your data if your phone, laptop or PC stopped working - you can now securely back up everything to the cloud so it’s always there, available whenever and wherever you want it.

By Sean Bradley Apr 20th 2018
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Cloud storage has become wildly popular over the last decade. Gone are the days when you had to worry about losing your data if your phone, laptop or PC stopped working - you can now securely back up everything to the cloud so it’s always there, available whenever and wherever you want it.

In this new age of the internet, security is becoming a wider concern across the board. With large institutions being compromised almost on a weekly basis, we’ve started to wonder how secure our online life really is. Cloud storage does not escape this scrutiny, so we’re going to take a hard look at how safe your data really is when it's up in the air.

We’ve put together a round-up of the best cloud storage providers, so if you’re in the market for a new service, have a look at our article here.

 

How safe is my data in the cloud?

To put it simply, your data in the cloud is very safe.

Commercial cloud storage will encode its user’s data with an individual encryption key. When the files are accessed without the use of this key, the files are just random gibberish, a mass of numbers and letters.

The issue here is who holds the key to your data. The majority of services will hold the key themselves, which allows them to offer a much more flexible service as they can then access the user data to provide a number of services such as indexing and searching. When you log into the service with your password, the key is then unlocked so you can view your data.

 

However, this method also leaves the service less secure only because someone else is holding your key, and that opens up the possibility of it being misused or compromised and it not being your fault. A service may also be compromised allowing whoever initiated the attack to access your key, and so, your data.

How can I increase the security on my cloud storage?

It is possible to use a cloud storage solution that allows you to keep your own key, meaning that you alone have the keys to the castle and can encrypt the files yourself. This makes your data ultra-secure, as it’s security is entirely in your hands.

These services have their own drawbacks however, as you will be losing some of the utility and ease of use compared to some of the larger commercial providers. If you ever lost your private key, you would be in real trouble too. There isn’t a password reset, or a chance to get it back. If you lose your house key, you can’t get into your front door. The same would apply here.

There are two distinct choices here. You can go with the easy-to-use option and be confident that your data is safe as cloud storage providers do take security very seriously in general. On the other hand, for the more security conscious that want that extra element of control, a service such as SpiderOak will be of interest with their sole focus on security.

The majority of us don’t have a whole lot worth stealing anyway, and it’s very rare that you’ll be targeted for a specific attack. If all you’re using your cloud storage for is selfies and the odd picture of your cat, then the more complicated route of self-encrypting might not be worth the trouble.