Using the cloud is now a fact of our digital lives. Email, blogging, website design and storing digital content all rely on cloud services. The news headlines can seem awash with security scare stories, but with a little effort anyone can use the cloud safely.
All of the cloud-based services that are in use today use passwords and encryption to ensure that the data that moves to and from the cloud servers is secure. The encryption part of the security is invisible to most users.
Make sure your browsing is secure
Just look at the web address in your internet browser. It should begin with ‘https’. The ‘s’ shows that the connection to the cloud is secure. Often your browser will also display a closed padlock indicating that the security protocols to the cloud service you are using are active.
Accessing these services to pick up your email or download some photos you have saved to one of the many cloud storage solutions will mean creating a password. The fundamental way that all users can ensure their use of cloud services are secure is to get into the habit of creating strong passwords.
Pick a secure password
Believe it or not, 123456 and ‘password’ are still the most common passwords used according to the latest survey from SplashData. QWERTY and abc123 are also commonly used to protect what can often be highly sensitive information stored in the cloud.
The good news is that there are a number of options when it comes to creating strong passwords to protect the data in the cloud:
- Don’t use the same password for all your cloud accounts.
- When you use your password, log off when you have finished using the cloud service. This is especially important when using cloud services with your mobile devices and a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to the internet.
- Get into the habit of changing your passwords regularly.
- Create a password form you can remember. Good examples include replacing a memorable phrase such as To be or not to be? with 2B-or-Not_2b?
- Internet browsers can have password creation applications added to them as plug-ins (Firefox is a good example) or your browser may have this service built in as Safari on the Mac does.
- Length really does matter! The longer you password the more difficult it will be to crack. These days at least six character is the minimum but try and aim for eight or even 12 if you can.
- If you are in any doubt whether a new password you have created is good enough, use a service like How Secure is My Password? to test your password’s strength before you use it.
- Beware of phishing attacks. Here an email is sent from what looks like a legitimate source – your bank for instance – asking you to confirm your login details. These emails are usually from hackers attempting to discover your password. If you are in any doubt where the email has come from, delete it immediately.
- Be as creative and obscure as you can with your password reset question. If your cloud service uses this form of password reset, don’t use an obvious question and answer, which hackers are likely to find easy to crack.
- Securing passwords when using the cloud isn’t just for your desktop PC. With more of us using tablets and smartphones for online shopping and banking, make sure you are using strong passwords on your mobile devices.
One of the main issues with using the cloud securely is that managing multiple passwords fast becomes a chore, with many cloud users reverting to using the same password for all their cloud usage because this is fast and easy.
Here, a password manager is ideal, as it removes the chore of remembering existing passwords, and creating new strong ones. A leader here is 1Password, which is available for all the main operating systems, including iOS and Android.
The cloud is indispensible today. Using these services should be approached with care especially when personal sensitive information is stored in the cloud. Developing a strong security attitude is about being aware of the services you are using, the data that your cloud services contain, and how information is protected.
Using reputable cloud service providers is essential for high levels of security, but you do need to take responsibility for how your data is protected. Passwords may continue to a stress point for many users, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
If you take your time to set up a memorable password creation system, or use one of the leading apps to help you, the cloud can be used safely.
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK