Cloud technology is in many ways an unheralded game changer in the ICT world. Smartphones and Mobile technology are rightly put up on a pedestal and there is much discussion now about the potential impact that the Internet of Things could have on the way businesses operate and people live their lives.
Right in the middle of that, cloud technology has surreptitiously slipped into our consciousness and our everyday usage. But make no mistake, it is every bit the revolution that those other developments are.
For individuals and freelancers, it has made managing data simple and risk-free. No longer to people have to worry about losing important documents and cherished photos because their laptop breaks down or they lose their USB drive. Once something is saved into the cloud it is never lost.
And then there is the huge convenience it offers too. Now you can access documents on any device no matter where you are, as long as there is an internet connection. This means you never find yourself in a meeting and realize you haven’t got the crucial document with you, and if you are suddenly sent off to work in your company’s LA office, you can take all of your data with you.
Businesses enjoy all these benefits and more besides. Probably most significant is the cost-saving it offers. Gone are the days when innovative IT systems and services required huge budgets and significant infrastructure investments. Nowadays, almost all IT services are available from the cloud which means they can be used on even the most basic machines.
This has allowed small businesses to benefit from technology that was previously out of their reach financially, and Big Business to innovate and push back boundaries still further.
So, the benefits are plentiful, but there are of course risks too. The most significant risk of cloud technology is that of security. Because putting data and services into the cloud means handing responsibility of it over to someone else.
It is basically stored on someone else’s server and if that server is hacked or compromised in any way, your data could be at risk from hackers.
It also opens up access to data to company’s staff members who perhaps previously may not have had it. This is also a risk as it an oft overlooked fact that the biggest risk to a company’s data security is not hackers or online attacks, but their own staff and the malicious or incompetent actions they can take to compromise your data security.
So while the data is held offsite, there are still plenty of steps companies can take themselves to help protect it in the cloud from the main risks. And in this article, I am going to highlight three fast and simple ways to secure your cloud information from hackers:
- Cloud Firewalls or encrypting data
One eminently sensible step to take is to use a Cloud Firewall. There are two basic ways you can employ a cloud firewall.
One is to use a Firewall which is built into the infrastructure of the cloud service itself; the other is to use host-based firewalls, which means ensuring the firewall is on every device which can access the cloud service.
Both have their advantages as an individual solution, but the most reliable setup would be to use both. This will maximize protection and minimize the risks from hackers.
Equally, encrypting data in the cloud is also a sensible step to take. Some encryption services like Boxcryptor can be used for most of the popular cloud storage services, while there are also cloud storage providers who automatically encrypt as well. Both options are worth considering.
- Obfuscation or Tokenization
Obfuscation or Tokenization are two other pretty effective data security techniques.
Obfuscation software works by creating confusing coding which makes software harder to reverse engineer. It is likely to put off all but the most persistent of hackers and is used pretty commonly by developers and other IT professionals and academics.
Tokenization is a similar approach to encryption but is thought to be stronger. Encryption can by its very nature be cracked in the end and moved back into its original format. It may take obscenely powerful computers and algorithms beyond the reach of most, but it can be done.
Tokenization replaced your data with 1-to-1-mapped random data which does not include the original information. This data acts as a kind of placeholder. This makes it impossible to revert tokenized data back to its original format because the original format is not there.
Both approaches can be highly effective when it comes to protecting data in the cloud.
- A VPN:
Installing a VPN onto all devices accessing the cloud data is also a move well worth taking. A VPN encrypt all your data as well, but it also changes the IP Address of users making them anonymous and therefore greatly enhancing their online privacy.
Both of these benefits are worthwhile when they are downloading and uploading content from the cloud, but it also helps to ensure that their device cannot be compromised and then used by a hacker to access the cloud.
VPNs have plenty of other benefits too including enabling staff to get around censorship if they are traveling to places like China where internet access is severely restricted. It also allows them to access geo-restricted content, which means they can watch their favorite shows, movies, and sports, no matter where in the world they are. Don’t forget, happy staff make good workers!