Online Exclusives: In Cloud We Trust?
A new survey reveals that cloud storage users have mixed feelings about security issues
- By William Wong
- Oct 17, 2016
An increasing number of individuals and businesses are using cloud storage. Recent statistics show that by 2017, an estimated 1.7 billion people globally will be users of personal cloud storage. Other studies predict that the market for cloud storage will grow to over $65 billion by 2020, representing an impressive 30 percent compound annual growth rate over five years.
This wide and continuously expanding usage of cloud services seems to imply trust in the cloud. Yet a new survey on security issues suggests otherwise. While the vast majority of those surveyed confirmed that they do use cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box for hosting their documents, the study found that close to half of users (43 percent) don’t even keep their passwords on a computer. This finding reveals a basic distrust among users when it comes to the ability to secure even basic information on their computers or in the cloud.
A significant majority (77 percent) of those surveyed keep track of their passwords by writing them down in a notebook or other means such as simply remembering them or storing them on a thumb drive. With less than a quarter of the nearly 400 people surveyed storing their password in a spreadsheet or other office application such as Word or Notes, it’s clear that many don’t feel as secure about the public cloud as its high usage would suggest.
What Makes Data Insecure?
There are plenty of reasons behind these trends. Not all cloud services are equally secure, and many cloud environments are vulnerable to security threats. The same features that create benefits when using on-demand shared cloud servers can also open them up to data breaches from authentication issues or compromised credentialing. Identity management can be a problem in cloud environments, and cyber thieves can steal passwords that aren’t appropriately protected. Other cloud-related threats that can easily jeopardize data and document security include vulnerable APIs and interfaces, attacks on system vulnerabilities, account fraud, and even malicious insider activities.
In the new study, over 80 percent of respondents—who span a wide range of ages from under 18 to over 60 years old—expressed concern about document security. Despite these concerns, 40 percent surveyed keep all of their documents on their local hard drive; another 11 percent keep them in the cloud. Less than 10 percent secure their documents by encrypting and password-protecting them with office productivity suite software.
When it comes to email attachments, 83 percent of survey participants do have security concerns and take precautionary measures to protect their data. Sixty-two percent never open unsolicited files or attachments, and another 21 percent have disabled the auto-download feature on their computer.
Options to Boost Security
Clearly, the cloud isn’t going away any time soon. People will continue to adopt mobile apps and documents in the cloud space as more and more users grow accustomed to accessing content across devices regardless of their environment. Rather than retreating from cloud-based solutions, a more forward-thinking approach is to employ ways to help better secure your documents wherever they are.
It’s important whether you’re working in a cloud or desktop environment to always use best practices for securing your documents. Here are a few to keep in mind as the digital world becomes increasingly cloud-centric:
- Use password protection. Some applications that are part of office productivity software come equipped with password protection and advanced read/write options. These features allow you to select who can see and/or modify your documents and who can’t.
- Employ encryption. Another built-in feature to look for in an office productivity suite allows you to secure and encrypt your sensitive documents using passkeys for added protection. Encryption is an important safeguarding tool for mobile devices as well.
- Be smart about unsolicited files. If you receive an unsolicited attachment or file, don’t be tempted to open it. Even if the sender’s name is familiar, it might be a phish scam or virus if the file arrives unexpectedly or out of context from files you would normally receive from that sender.
- App permissions. Sometimes called “click-through agreements, these mobile document security app permissions give you added protection by delivering a prompt before you install an app, verifying that you want to proceed, so remember to take advantage of this buffer.
- Device security features. Be sure to enable specific security features on your mobile devices such as setting PIN codes, using unlock patterns, and enabling device lockout (which can keep hackers out by locking your device if someone tries to guess at your password too many times).
While these tips may take a little extra time at the front end (not much, though), they can help you achieve greater security and peace of mind in our evermore cloud-based and collaborative world.