Has Cloud Computing Paved the Way for Reduced Privacy?

Posted: 25th August 2015 11:30

Cloud computing has now become very much a part of our everyday lives and often we don’t give it a second thought. If we use a phone it is often automatically backed up to the cloud and this can include both our personal and any business information which we hold on our mobile.

Even though many companies have policies in place to prevent employees sending any confidential data to a cloud service not directly connected to the business, it sometimes still happens unwittingly. Most of us use our phones for checking work email and if we download a document to read through quickly we may then not realise a copy has been backed up to a destination outside our control.

The problem is that cloud services can be vulnerable to hacking. This was made very apparent in the iCloud celebrity photo hack of 2014 when several high profile celebrities had compromising photos released which they had taken on their phones and synced to the cloud. This highlights that when we upload any data to a 3rd party we lose control over where and how it is stored and the security which protects it. The cloud itself wasn’t in fact hacked in this situation instead it was weaknesses in the password security which allowed persistent hackers to access these photos. However, on other occasions breaches have taken place in cloud storage and this underlines the need to approach online security in a holistic manner so that all angles are covered.

How then can both individuals and companies protect their data?
First Line Defence

Your first line of defence will always be your internal security. A robust firewall; complex, frequently changed passwords; and above all up-to-date anti-virus software are essential. Guard against phishing by being wary of downloading any attachments from unknown sources and never provide personal details in reply to an email.

Take particular care over any sensitive data such as the address details and credit card numbers of your clients and employee records. If you are making or receiving payment online make sure you do so through a secure connection.
Also consider what data you want to store and backup on your own computer or network and what you are willing to upload to the cloud. If you have highly confidential information you should think about using a professional records management company to store this, and you should be cautious about storing it in the cloud.
Protecting the Cloud

Some individuals and businesses will find that cloud storage is an essential necessity, however there are steps you can take to minimise the risks. Choose the cloud provider carefully and check their history in terms of uptime, breaches and customer satisfaction. A wise choice is to opt for a company which provides encryption both while the data is being stored and while it is being transferred. That way even if the cloud provider is hacked your data should remain secure. 
Think About How We Use the Internet

When we also turn to VoIP providers to deliver many of the online services we use daily, such as online chat, voice calls, video conferencing, instant messaging and screen share, we also need to consider how we protect our privacy in these situations. Again, encryption is important to prevent people listening in on calls and accessing sensitive data. Anti-virus software installed on the VoIP servers will guard against malware, vishing and voicemail spam. Just as we have all grown used to protecting our web-based transactions and interactions we must now extend this to any voice, video and chat communication which happen over the internet.

While it can be argued that cloud storage has paved the way for reduced privacy this exposure can be mitigated by taking a common sense approach. Always look into who you trust your data with, make encryption a non-negotiable element and take precautions from your side by using a firewall, anti-virus software and strong passwords. Also, you could choose to outsource all of your IT needs to a professional IT support company, which will mean all of your security needs are taken care of. As with anything in life it is impossible to guarantee complete safety, however by taking these steps you are giving yourself the best chance possible of protecting your privacy or that of your business.