How cloud storage works in securing online accounts
Many individuals and businesses, especially in the world of advertising and marketing, are using the cloud to store data and perform collaborative work. This rise in demand for cloud services also creates a rising need for data security for cloud-based accounts.
Some businesses utilize various solutions like unified threat management (UTM) or secure cloud-based apps to store financial data and other business working files.
Even entities like hospitals or schools need security for cloud services necessary for online classes or confidential patient records.
In these situations, cloud services need to have a reliable security solution to ensure that only authorized users can access data stored in the cloud. One of these solutions is through encryption.
Cloud-based data and encryption
Storing your data in the cloud is similar to keeping your files on your hard disk, except the storage is not in your local computer or network.
Instead, your files are hosted in an off-site or on-premise server that you access through public internet or a dedicated private connection.
Only permitted users should be able to access your account and files. To ensure this, you must implement encryption as a reliable security measure.
Encryption by itself provides a high level of security. It prevents unauthorized users from viewing or editing the cloud data and keeps the owner or authorized users in control.
To decrypt the data, you need an encryption key. The key can be kept by the cloud service, the user, or both. Regardless of choice, encrypted data is more secure than having your files not encrypted at all.
Most cloud services store data in encrypted form. An intruder trying to access this data needs to break the encryption to view or edit the files. They can do this either by acquiring the key or through brute force.
Ways to encrypt data in the cloud
There are various ways users can secure their cloud-based accounts and files through encryption. Most of these solutions deal with which side keeps the encryption key.
Cloud encryption keys
One advantage of having the cloud service keep the encryption keys is the convenience for users. When you log in to your cloud account, those services use the key to unlock your files so you can access them.
Although this method is convenient, having the cloud service keep the keys is also less secure.
There is a possibility that a hacker or unauthorized user gets hold of the key without the user’s knowledge. Some cloud services may even have gaps in their security that can compromise your data.
One workaround to this vulnerability is to let you, the user, keep the encryption key.
User encryption keys
Some cloud services require you to use client-side encryption software, effectively letting you keep the key. This feature allows you to have more control over access to your cloud data.
This encryption method is more secure than just relying on the cloud’s security. However, you sacrifice some amount of convenience in exchange for more control.
In addition, there is still the possibility of intruders obtaining your files or encryption keys, especially if they manage to access your computer or device.
When this situation happens, hackers can get a hold of your files before you encrypt and upload them to the cloud or after you download and decrypt them.
With both cloud- and user-side encryption having advantages and weaknesses, some users may prefer to combine both to maximize security.
Combination of cloud and user keys
Making the cloud and the users perform the encryption sounds like additional work but is more secure. First, you encrypt your data with your encryption application. Then, when you upload your data, the cloud encrypts it again.
This way, you are essentially performing at least two encryptions on your data.
When you need to access the file, log in to your cloud account and have the cloud service decrypt it. Afterward, download the file and perform a second decryption using your software.
This added security provides you with even more control over your data.
One major downside is that other users who need to access your data may no longer perform live editing or search for files stored in the cloud. To do so, those users may have to use your encryption key to decrypt the files.
Rather than give your encryption keys to other users, authenticated encryption may be a better solution, especially for shared files.
Aside from encrypting the data, this method adds metadata information to the file. This feature lets you know when the file was modified and who edited it.
Data encryption is one of the most secure methods to protect your data when using cloud services.
However, encryption strength varies. Some methods are less secure but are more convenient to the user. Others provide more control but require additional steps.
In the end, the choice of encryption method to secure your online account depends on your preferences and security needs. To determine which solution is a better fit for you, ask a cloud expert or an IT professional for more details.