Cloud security: Using cloud services securely

Safe devices

Saving photos, videos and other data to the cloud is something we’ve been doing almost automatically for a long time already. But what about security? We can show you how to store your data in the cloud securely while protecting your privacy.

iBarry is sniffing at a cloud with various files.

Why is it called the cloud and how does this service work?

The term ‘cloud’ is used in IT diagrams to represent how systems such as desktop computers, servers and smartphones exchange data via a network.

Using a cloud service means using an internet-enabled device (smartphone, tablet, computer or even TV) to store data on an internet server in order to be able to access it again online from anywhere in the world.

Five simple tips to increase security

Using cloud storage for your data is really practical: it’s easy to use and all of your data is available at any time and from anywhere. But is the data you upload to the cloud secure? It’s not actually possible to guarantee this with 100% certainty. However, by following these tips, you can increase the security of your data.

Protect your access to the cloud

Ensure that your access to the cloud is particularly well protected. Not having a password or only having a weak password makes things easy for data thieves. After gaining access to the cloud, they’ll be able to access all your data, assuming that it hasn’t been additionally encrypted. That’s why it’s important to use secure passwords and have a separate secure password for every account. Most cloud providers also offer two-factor authentication, which you should use.

Protect your smartphone, tablet, laptop and PC

The cloud is accessed via an internet-enabled device such as a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. If a device is infected by malware, cloud services may also be attacked under certain circumstances. Therefore, make sure you set up your devices so that you can use them securely. This means installing all updates, protecting your data, installing antivirus protection and using caution when clicking on links and attachments in emails and when downloading files from websites.

It’s particularly important to protect your smartphone. If it’s possible to access the data on your smartphone via an app, it’s also possible to access the cloud with just a click. This is very practical, but also means there’s potential for malware loaded on the smartphone to get into the cloud. Also, if your smartphone is lost or stolen, your cloud data is only as secure as your smartphone itself.

Smartphones, photos and the cloud

Have you connected your smartphone to a cloud? If so, it’s quite likely that all your photos are being transferred to the cloud automatically. Dropbox, Google and iCloud all do this by default. It’s designed to be convenient for you: if your smartphone is wiped, gets broken or is stolen, your photos are still available.

But remember this before your next snap. If you take photos you’d rather not share, open the Settings menu in your app, look for the automatic photo upload function and turn it off.

Encrypt sensitive data

To ensure that sensitive data like bank statements, tax documents, medical records and private photos are saved to the cloud securely, this data should ideally be encrypted before you upload it. Here are two examples of encryption tools:

There are also cloud providers that automatically save all documents in encrypted form. These providers are often considerably more expensive but are also particularly secure and user-friendly.

Use a secure cloud provider

How can users be sure that cloud services are handling their data correctly and securely? In a nutshell: trust is good, but control is better. However, because it’s difficult for us to control the providers, we need to trust others to do it for us.

Secure cloud services from SISA members

MyCloud from Swisscom: up to 10 GB free for everyone. Swisscom customers can enjoy unlimited photo and video uploads, although there is a restriction for files. The service is also available to non-customers on a subscription basis.

Insurance company Swiss Mobiliar offers its cyber-insurance customers 100 GB of storage to protect their data and passwords in the form of the SecureSafe web storage system with multilayer security.

Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi

Accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots, for example in airports, restaurants and hotels, is a risk factor. Hackers with the right skills and equipment can intercept data such as usernames and passwords for the cloud via these networks. This is particularly problematic if two-factor authentication isn’t being used. It’s therefore important to be aware of this when using public Wi-Fi networks and avoid connecting to your cloud wherever possible.

Additional information