Sizing Up the Cloud's Risks
Sep 4, 2014 6:35 AM PT
The iCloud security issue that's been in the headlines all week should be a great big wake-up call to everyone. The cloud is coming; however, we are still in the very early days. Security threats keep growing, so it is important for both individuals and companies to be prepared.
The news this week suggested an iCloud security flaw allowed private nude photos to be stolen. That was terrible, but it was just embarrassing. The information theft could have been harmful to our safety or financial security.
So whose fault is this particular break-in? Maybe it was a technology security flaw. If so, it won't be the last, since these things happen from time to time. It could have been easily broken passwords at fault.
There are many ways the bad guys can break into your account. So it's very important to understand how to protect yourself as best you can. Would you ever go to sleep and leave your house unlocked? Would you go away on a vacation and put a sign on your front lawn telling the world to come on in? No, of course not.
However we do just that kind of thing when it comes to securing our data. Maybe we don't think our data is interesting or valuable to anyone else. Maybe we think our simple password is sufficient. Whatever the excuse, we simply walk around on a daily basis, oblivious to the reality that our personal and private information is just waiting to be hacked into and stolen.
Loss of Control
All clouds are not created equal. Different clouds have different security levels. One thing is for sure, though -- what happened to Apple can happen to any company and any user. That means if we use the cloud, we are all at risk.
Password protection is all most of us ever use. If that's the case, it is very important to use long and chaotic passwords and change them regularly. Sounds great, but that's also a pain in the neck.
Until cloud security gets better, the cloud may not be the best place to store valuable personal and private information. Once we upload our stuff to the cloud, we lose ultimate control. When we have our information on our own computer disk, then that is the only place it can be accessed.
With that we need virus protection software, and we need to always keep it updated. In fact we should always keep all of our operating system and software updated for protection.
The cloud makes it easy to keep all our data in one central location so all our devices can access it. There are reasons the cloud sounds so good. However, once information is up on the cloud, it is at risk.
Companies spend a fortune advertising and marketing the wonderful cloud world. They spend little time talking about the risks and threats. That's a mistake. The cloud may be the future, but we are still in the very early days, and there are risks. So companies should spend time and money telling us about how to best protect our data.
The cloud won't go away. It will stay with us, and it will grow. We can expect more high- profile problems, so we should not go blindly into the cloud. The bad guys are waiting.
Step by Step
Cloud companies have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. However, they can't catch everything. Every once in a while, a problem occurs like what happened a few days ago. In fact, data theft has happened many times to many people -- it's just that it doesn't always make the headlines.
That leads to a false sense of security.
That's why some companies that use cloud services don't put proprietary information up on the cloud. They put less sensitive information there and work with the cloud for a while until they feel comfortable.
Other companies have jumped all-in to cloud storage. It makes life much easier; however, it means the company and all the information on the cloud is exposed to this kind of disaster.
So if I could just make one practical suggestion: Go slowly. Don't avoid the cloud -- use the cloud. Just don't trust the cloud. Not yet. Don't put private and personal information there. That goes for businesses and for individuals.
The cloud will be with us going forward. We won't stop it. That means over time, as we use the cloud more and more, more of our information will be exposed to the bad guys. Our best bet is to take this one step at a time.