How to secure your information in the cloud
Authored by a Symantec employee
More people and businesses now use the cloud in some form, sometimes without even realizing they are doing so. Unfortunately, being unaware of using the service also means that people aren’t always as protected as they should be, and it is becoming increasingly important to know how to secure your information on the cloud.
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Use a Cloud Service That Encrypts
The first step in the defense against identity thieves is using a cloud service that encrypts your files both in the cloud and on your computer. Encryption ensures service providers and their service administrators, as well as third parties, do not have access to your private information.
Read the User Agreements
Never sign up for cloud service without reading the user agreement completely. It includes vital information that details how the service protects your information and whether you give permission for them to use or sell your information in any way by signing up. Never sign up for anything without a full understanding of what every clause in the agreement means. Anytime your service provider updates its privacy policies, it will notify you via email, text or an alert when you log in. Always read these notifications to ensure changes do not negatively affect your information.
Set Up Your Privacy Settings
As soon as you do sign up for a cloud service provider, configure your privacy settings to ensure you are not sharing your private information via the apps you connect to your service provider. You should also determine how long the service stores your data and which types of information it can pull from your devices or apps. After the initial setup of your privacy settings, check and re-configure every few weeks to ensure they remain safe.
Use Strong Passwords
A strong password is essential for every account you have, but especially when it comes to protecting accounts housing private information. More than 75 percent of attacks are due to weak passwords, which means you must be diligent when creating yours. Never use one shorter than eight characters and create one with 15 characters or more for the best protection. Avoid using identifying information such as your name, birthday, company name or the names of people or pets you are close to. Never create a password solely with letters. Ensure you use both capital and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. Finally, update your passwords regularly and avoid using the same one for multiple accounts.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
When provided with the option, always use two-factor authentication. This means anyone who signs into your account will need information in addition to your password. Common methods of authentication include answering a secret question, providing a personal PIN number or inputting a code that the cloud provider emails or texts to you. You may also opt to download an authenticator app. Not all accounts will automatically ask you to set up a secondary identifier, so be sure to check your settings to see if the option is available.
Don’t Share Personal Information
Some of your personal information may seem innocuous but if it falls into the wrong hands, it could leave your identity unprotected. Never publicly provide your birth date or mother's maiden name, which are often asked as questions to verify your identity. You should also avoid providing people you don't know or trust with information such as the name of the street you grew up on or the name of your first pet. Regardless of how well you trust someone, never give them the last four digits of your social security number. Some providers allow you to choose your own questions to answer for verification. If you have the option, use questions and answers that you can easily remember but that most people wouldn't easily be able to learn about you, such as an embarrassing childhood nickname or where you went on your first date.
Don’t Store Sensitive Information
Avoid storing sensitive information on the cloud. In addition to the obvious, such as your social security number, copies of your IDs or important financial statements — even old ones — consider what other information someone could get their hands on. Never keep racy pictures or intimate interactions with partners in the cloud and if you are sensitive about items such as diet progress pictures, avoid posting those as well.
Use a Strong Anti-Malware Program
Because the cloud transfers information over the internet, it is vital to have strong antivirus and anti-malware protection on your laptop, smartphone, tablet or any other cloud-using device. These programs help to block suspicious URLs and downloads. Some also offer features such as remote wipe, backups and device location services. Norton Security is robust solution for all your digital safety needs.
Install Updates to Your Operating System
It may be tempting to ignore the notifications alerting you to updates for your operating system, but these updates are often vital for ensuring the protection of your computer and information. They often are to fix bugs found in the system that leave you at risk. By ignoring them due to their sometimes inconvenient timing, you set yourself up for even larger inconveniences. Ensure you install all updates as soon as possible.
Use Public Wi-Fi Sparingly
While you can set creative passwords, use firewalls and provide antivirus and anti-malware programs when you use your home's wireless internet connection, you cannot guarantee that a public connection is safe. When you do use public Wi-Fi, verify the connection through the business. Avoid using internet hot spots if you cannot verify their source. Cyber thieves use these open Wi-Fi connections to steal information when you connect to the spot. They don't even have to be technologically advanced to do so. All it takes is a small device and the ability to sit within 100 feet of you while you use the connection. To further protect your information, keep your Wi-Fi feature turned off until you are ready to log in on a verified connection. Always use a virtual private network if viewing sensitive information in public. Or use Norton Secure VPN that protects your data when you use public Wi-Fi.
Despite knowing how to secure your information on the cloud, sometimes cyber thieves find their way into your private information. If you suspect your account has been compromised, immediately change your passwords and verification information and alert the provider. By describing the suspicious behavior to the provider, you can help them prevent future attacks.
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