How Secure is Your Data When it’s Being Stored in the Cloud?

In a previous blog post here on Zerostack, we stated that public adoption of cloud storage increased from 89% in 2017 to 92% in 2018. As the demand for cloud storage continues to go up, data security becomes an increasing concern. While cloud storage is an effective way to store files, as they can’t be physically lost this way, one major concern is its susceptibility to third-party attacks. Yet, cloud storage is actually more secured than most people think.

Data encryption
Compared to a commercial external hard drive where files have to be manually encrypted, cloud services automatically encrypt files before storing them. This means hackers need to crack the files’ encryption first before they can steal any information. Data encryption is very hard to crack due to the letters, numbers, and special characters that are generated by random user actions.

Encryption keys
Cloud storage systems encrypt files using a key. Without this key, users cannot read the information stored within the files.

But who has the key? It depends on the cloud service provider. The key is either stored by the provider itself or the user. Most services keep the key themselves in order to prevent users from misplacing them. This is more secure as users can unlock their keys via two-factor authentication. A two-factor authentication involves a password and a code that is sent to a user’s mobile device, which expires after a few seconds. Hackers would need to have access to a person’s mobile phone to beat a two-factor authentication security set-up.

Data centers
Apart from online security, tech giants secure their cloud storage services by protecting their physical data centers. A data center is an in-house data storage system managed by trained IT employees whose job is to keep the systems running in a secured environment.

The cloud storage services of tech giants like Google use some of the most secure data centers in the world. Google has a huge budget, which means it can finance the latest security measures to keep third parties out. Google has actually put itself at the forefront of cloud computing technology, meaning it has the latest cutting-edge innovation in both online and offline cloud security to leverage. To access the files, hackers would need to break into the actual data center to steal them.

Extra layer of encryption
Some cloud service providers require users to download and upload their files via service-specific client applications that include self-encryption. This means that apart from the encryption that cloud services already provide, users would need to encrypt the files themselves. The result of this extra layer of encryption is that the files cannot be searched by other users of the cloud.

To maximize cloud storage security, tech experts advise users to utilize the extra layer of encryption to files. Encrypting files before uploading them to the cloud, and then decrypting them after downloading may sound like tedious work. However, it’s the safest way to store files online and avoid prying eyes that may be searching for a specific file that a user owns. PC World has an article on how users can encrypt their data for your guidance.

Cloud storage makes storing files online easier thanks to the several layers of security that providers use. While cloud services are not 100% secure, they are still a very safe way to store files.

The future of cloud storage
While it is established that cloud storage is generally safer than other options, it still has its limitations. However, new developments are being made in order to strengthen the already tight security around online data storage. The most promising one is the use of blockchain technology, a digital ledger system that keeps a record of all assets and transactions. CryptoDigest points out that blockchain will eliminate the biggest threat to data security, which is human error. This is because of its decentralized nature. FXCM further explained the benefit of having a decentralized system, stating that this provides heightened security because of its use of cryptography. In addition, it also adds a layer of transparency due to its time immutable and secure time stamps. While a central data storage system opens up one big weakness, a decentralized storage would remove that by distributing data to an extensive network of nodes. With more advanced technology like this in the works, tomorrow’s users and businesses can look forward to even stronger security measures for their precious files on the cloud.

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