September 3, 2014

How Secure is the Cloud?

The recent attack on celebrity iCloud accounts has brought to the forefront the on-going debate on security of storing data online. According to the Apple's press release (link here), the attack was a "very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions" and not a particular breach of security of Apple's iCloud platform.

This type of very high profile security breach does not help build the case for companies and individuals to shift more of their own data from onsite servers and hard drives to the cloud and offsite servers. 

Many companies have started this shift using platforms such as Google Drive or Drop Box. Sometimes the cost savings generated are just too great that companies are willing to overlook the apparent risks involved. For smaller companies, the security provided by third party providers might even be better than the security they currently have. Also, as more companies become more global and look to be able to shift information quickly across teams, working and storing data on the cloud is very important.

While working with my IE Business School MBA colleagues on projects, we frequently used Google Drive. It was very helpful and we could quickly work on and collaborate on projects and requirements either in real time (doing a virtual working session during a pre-arranged common time) or during our own time (editing and revising the work in our own free time as we were located in different time zones). It was more efficient than using email to pass along a file that everyone worked on individually and then consolidated.

For individuals, storing data on privately owned and personal hard drives that are not linked online might still be the best way to protect your personal data. Syncing automatically with an online platform might be more convenient, but it is also more risky. Going online though cannot be avoided so the best security is still to always use one's common sense. It cannot be stated enough how important it is to have complex passwords that are frequently changed and to avoid clicking on suspicious looking links.

It seems that working and using the cloud is here to stay. As our world continues to become more connected and as we store more and more information online, we should continue to be vigilant. We should not mistake ease of connectivity of the platform  we are using (or the brand of the platform we are using for that matter) with security. We should judge for ourselves (and for our businesses) what data is truly essential for us to share and store online and what should be kept safely within the confines of our own physical property.