It’s Data Privacy Day and when it comes down to it, most of us don’t know exactly how many organizations have our data—let alone how it’s being collected or what it is being used for. Unfortunately, the stakes are higher than ever for those who are unwilling to take appropriate safeguards to defend their personal data, including identity theft, financial loss, and more.
While the cloud presents a wealth of opportunity for increased productivity, connectivity and convenience, it also requires a new set of considerations for ensuring safe use. There are many, but here are the top ten:
1. Don’t reuse passwords.
Password reuse is a common problem, especially in consumer cloud services. If you reuse passwords, you only need one of your cloud services to be breached—once criminals have stolen your credentials through one service, they potentially have access to every account that shares those same credentials, including banking platforms, email and other services where sensitive data is stored. When using a cloud service for the first time, it’s easy to think that if the data you are using in that particular service isn’t confidential, then it doesn’t matter if you use your favorite password. But a good way to think of it is this: Many passwords, one breach. One password…. (potentially) many breaches. If you’re concerned about being able to remember them, look into obtaining a password manager.
2. Don’t share folders, share files
Many cloud services allow collaboration or file sharing. If you only want to share a few files, share those and not a complete folder. It’s all too easy to over-share without realizing what else is in the folder—or to forget who you shared it with (or that you shared it at all!) and later add private files that were never meant to be disseminated.
3. Be careful with auto-sync (it could bring in malware)
If you share a folder with someone else, many cloud services provide auto-sync, so that when another user adds new files, they get synced to everyone in the share. The danger here is that if someone you are sharing with gets infected by malware, this malware could be uploaded to the cloud and downloaded to your devices automatically.
4. Be careful of services that ask for your data
When logging into a new service, you may be asked for some personal data; for example, your date of birth. Why should they ask, and what will they do with this information? If they can tie that to your email address, and another service obtains your zip-code and a third service asks for your mobile number, you can see that anyone collating that information could have enough to try to steal your identity. If there’s no reason why a service should have that data, use a different service (or, at least, give them incorrect information).
5. Read EULA & privacy policies – who owns the data?
I know this sounds hard, but it is worth it: Does the cloud provider claim that they own the data you upload? This may give them the right, or at least enough rights in their own mind, to sell your data to data brokers. This is more common than you think—you should never use a service that claims it owns your data.
6. Think twice about mobile apps and their data collection
Many cloud services have a mobile app as a way to access their service. Before using a mobile app, look at the data it says it will collect. Often the app collects more data than would be collected if you were to access the service via browser.
7. If unsure, ask your IT department if they have reviewed the service.
Some organizations’ IT departments will have already reviewed a cloud service and decided if it is acceptable for corporate use. It’s in their interest to keep their users secure, especially as so many devices now contain both personal and business data. Ask them if they have reviewed a service before you access it.
8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi hotspots without using a VPN for encryption.
Public Wi-Fi can be a place for data interception. Always use a VPN or encryption technology to ensure data is encrypted between your device and cloud services when on a public Wi-Fi.
9. Enable multi-factor authentication.
Cloud services that are well designed will offer additional security services, such as multi-factor authentication. Use those, and any other security features that you can.
10. Don’t share accounts with friends and family.
It’s often second nature to share with our friends and family. But are they as concerned about privacy as you are? Don’t share accounts, otherwise if they let their guard drop, your data could be compromised.
Take a look at our additional resource for safeguarding your personal data in the cloud .