5 steps to keeping your data safe online and in the "cloud"

05 April 2019 - 00:00
By Zola Zingithwa
Close up of desperate office employee sitting at her workplace with laptop in room with gray walls. Concept of receiving bad news
Image: Denis Ismagilov via 123RF Close up of desperate office employee sitting at her workplace with laptop in room with gray walls. Concept of receiving bad news

The cloud!

What is it exactly? Think iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive - essentially all those sites where you can upload every aspect of your life and retrieve it with a few clicks.

Because we put all kinds of deetsabout our lives on the cloud, we need to know how to make sure our data is safe.

The recent Facebook data breach scandals, cloud services becomingdefunct and hacks of celebrities’ phones are not exactly reassuring. Incidents from the Ashley Madison embarrassment to the Liberty hack right here in Mzansihave made us realise our online data is not necessarily secure.

Documents, account details, pictures-almost everything we deal with on daily basis –can end up being stored on the cloud, so it is important to do all we can to keep our information safe.

Leo Meyer, cybersecurity firmBitdefender’scountry partner for Southern Africa, has given us five tips to help you stay safe, whether you take nudes on your smartphone which are automatically backed up or save sensitive documents on your accounts.

Step 1: Oops! Forgot your password?

Perhaps in a lazy moment you neglected to tell your computer to remember your login details and have forgotten them. Or maybeyou have signed up for so many cloud services you’ve losttrack of them. Make sure you retrieve forgotten passwords and verify the email addresses and phone numbers you have used. This is so you know exactly how to login into every cloud storage account you have.

Step 2: Ghosts from the past can follow you…

How many times have you changed your phone in the past few years? What about laptops or tablets? Computers you used at work? Did you sync cloud accounts to devices you no longer use? Do you even remember? That is a security risk right there.

While sites do their best to monitor your account for suspicious activity, it’s a good idea to unlink any devices you no longer use. Also, change the passwords to your accounts to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises from an old phone.

The same goes for the browsers associated with your account or linked apps that integrate with the service. You have no guarantee one of those apps won’t be breached and your personal details leaked as a result.The rule should be, if you don’t use it, unlink it.

Internet Theft - a man wearing a balaclava and holding a credit card while sat behind a laptop,
Image: ximagination via 123RF Internet Theft - a man wearing a balaclava and holding a credit card while sat behind a laptop,

Step 3: Do the two step

Two-factorauthentication, adds another layer of security to your online accounts. It helps the service to verify that the person logging in is really you by asking you to confirm a code sent to another device you own.

Meyer says you should make sure any cloud service you make use of has two-factor authentication. If it is not clear how to switch this on, dig around in the settings until youfind.

Even if you take precautions, you should still be careful which details you allow internet companies to know about you becausethey can use your data in nefarious ways.

Step 4: Have fun with your passwords - or get a manager to sort it out

We all know the rule that your password should be eight characters long, with capitals and small letters, a unique character, plus numbers. WhistleblowerEdward Snowden said the best passwords were fun sentences only you can remember. But who can keep up with long passwords for different accounts, which are constantly changing?

Using a password manager created by a cybersecurity company, such asBitDefender, might be the solution. They can recommend passwords while securing your credit card information and other sensitive data in acybervault.

Step 5: Sign out, silly!

If you want to protect data it is import to make sure you sign out when you leave your device. I you don’t, it’s tantamount to leaving your car in a parking lot with thekeys in the ignition while you go shopping.

Consumers should be vigilant and take responsibility for their account safety, Meyersays. “If someone else has access to your computer, whether at home or at work, they can easily peek into your private life with a few keystrokes and clicks.”

Apparently,Dropbox stays logged in, even after you close the tab in your browser, which Meyer says is a big oversight for a service with more than 500 million users. “Remember to always hit that ‘sign out’ button when you’re done,” he says.