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"The cloud" is a physical place where access to digital information is stored.
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While data kept on a cloud system is typically safer than information that is stored on a user's own hard drive, some people are concerned about losing control over data they do not have physical control of on their own devices, especially after a 2014 mass breach exposed several high-profile celebrities' nude photos stored on their iCloud accounts.
"While it may seem a bit disconcerting to push personal data outside of our homes and businesses to a public cloud, it’s actually more secure there than on our laptops, phones or even our traditional business computing systems," Deloitte Consulting LLP Chief Cloud Strategy Officer David Linthicum told FOX Business.
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There are a few different steps cloud users can take to ensure their information stays safe in storage, but first, let's get a better idea of what the cloud actually is.
Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and others have their own versions of physical cloud storage systems where files are transferred via wire to physical computer servers. Sometimes, cloud storage is the size of a small box, but for tech giants like Apple and Google, it can be the size of a building.
Here's a picture of a Google Cloud data center in Taiwan:
Many of us, at some point in our lives, have received the same smartphone notification that reads, "Can't take photo. Manage photo and video storage," or something along those lines. That notification will then direct you to a cloud storage system, where you can upload old photos to make room for new ones.
It's like a storage unit building for technology. Both are becoming more popular as humans continue to accumulate more stuff (help us, Marie Kondo), and both usually cost money.
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Michael Coates, co-founder and CEO of cloud data security company Altitude Networks, similarly said that storing data on a cloud can be more secure than keeping that data on our own devices, but all data is vulnerable to potential attacks from savvy cybercriminals.
Coates said there are "three primary actions a consumer should take to protect personal information stored in cloud applications."
1. Create a strong password and two-factor authentication
First, users should create strong passwords for their cloud accounts and two-factor authentication, or a two-step login process that often requires entering more than just one password to enter an account. Users may be required to also answer security questions or enter a verification code sent to a mobile phone number with two-factor authentication.
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"This dramatically enhances your [account's ability] to avoid being compromised by hackers who attempt a myriad of attacks including using programs to automatically guess your password or pulling your password information from other breaches and seeing if you’ve reused that password at other websites," Coates said.
2. Be aware of how and with whom data is shared
Second, users should be aware of whom they share data with and always make sure to log out of cloud accounts when using shared or public computers. They should also "periodically review sharing settings for sensitive information," Coates explained.