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Ask Arthur: Is cloud storage safe?

A reader asks if it is dangerous to store one’s stuff in the cloud. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK has both good and bad news

Question: Is it dangerous to store my stuff in the cloud?

Answer: It is more dangerous to store valued content on a computer or in an external hard-drive at home than it is in the cloud. The cloud simply means that the content or applications one is accessing are stored in a data centre somewhere, which in turn means it can be accessed from any computer anywhere in the world if one has the appropriate access credentials or passwords.

Most of us already depend heavily on the cloud, even if we don’t realise it. Almost all our banking is done online, which means it is being conducted in the cloud. Many of us use online mail services like Gmail. It is conducted and stored in the cloud. And if you use an app on your phone, the data on that app is being stored in the cloud.

There are a few scenarios in which your “stuff” is at risk, such as weak passwords which allow hackers to get into your account. However, most of these dangers are in the hands of the users themselves. There are several rules for robust data security:

* Don’t use the same password on multiple sites. If one site is hacked and user names stolen with passwords, those will be tested on numerous other sites.

* Use complex passwords, with at least a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

* Use multi-factor authentication, meaning that logging into a site requires an additional one-time password or code that is sent to one’s phone or email.

In terms of protecting stored data, the ideal is to have a “mirror” of your data on a backup device at home or in the office, while having it backed up in the cloud as well.

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