Friday, May 10, 2013

How Easily Hackable Are My Cloud-Stored Files?

Cloud computing, the practice of storing information on networks (usually the Internet) instead of yourdevices, has garnered a significant degree of criticism for being unsafe and easily crackable. However, is data fundamentally less safe when stored outside ofyour computer system?

The Pros and Cons

Storing data in the cloud is an easy and convenient solution to the constant need for more space and instant access to one’s accumulated data. It also keeps things safe in case of hardware failure. A computer is vulnerable to water damage or a cracked hard drive, but when a user’s pictures, videos, emails and other information are stored in the cloud, they are kept safe by the protection of many powerful servers.

Local storage has some advantages too, however. When the files are stored within the device itself, the device is able to access them instantaneously. In contrast, if there is network interference — even if it has nothing to do with the user — retrieving data may be slow or impossible. A UK private investigator, for example, could be cost precious hours in retrieving a criminal’s data simply because of a storm in New York.

Which to Choose?

To examine whether cloud storage is safer than hardware storage, the very term “safer” must be examined. Is password protection enough to be considered “safe,” or must the data actually be encrypted within the storage device? Should the files be accessible from the root user, or must they be completely hidden within the system? Determining what, if anything, can keep malicious users out of a personal machine is more complex than it sounds.

To complicate matters, the tactics used to hack passwords are the same whether the password applies to a cloud system or to a local machine. Dictionary or brute-force attacks can ping thousands of potential passwords at the system per second. If the hacker gets a lucky guess, it’s game over for your private data.

While it may sound like the two are equally matched as far as security, there is an added complication to cloud computing: the fact that data can be intercepted en route. Viruses and malware can hang in an operating system without the owner’s knowledge, silently transmitting data back to its source. Therefore if a personal machine isn’t safe, then neither is anything in the else in the cloud that that machine might connect to.

What to Do to Keep Safe

Whether you choose to entrust the cloud with your personal data or keep it on your own computer, there are a few basic safety tips to practice. Always choose passwords that are hard to crack, such as long strings of random numbers and letters. Removing the vowels of a phrase or substituting in numbers for letters can make this easy.

Additionally, when using the Internet, make sure that any personal data goes to a site with the https:// prefix, instead of http://. This indicates that it is a secure connection.

With the options available to today’s computer users, unlimited data access has never been easier. Just make sure your storage method is safe and takes advantage of these advancements to itsfullest potential.

My dear friend Michelle who wrote this for me is a blogger and freelancer. She’s written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she’s writing. Whenever she’s able to step away from her computer she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs.

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