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The first thing you must do when using a cloud service is to choose a distinct password for it

Today nearly all of us have our information stored on the cloud. It's a very easy solution that allows users to seamlessly create back-ups of photos, contacts and other personal information, giving users access to their accounts anywhere from any device. Perhaps its most prized feature is that it has no storage limits, unlike mobile devices and PCs.

There is, however, a downside to cloud services. Although it is useful in storing data, it could be the reason data is lost. Recently, the celebrity iCloud hack went to trial. The hacker admitted he acquired the credentials by spear phishing his victims and once he had them, all the data they stored on the cloud, whether intentionally or not, was exposed and later posted online.

Many users are not aware of the different risks involved in using the cloud. It's easy to forget that it syncs automatically, storing data that was not intended to be uploaded and accumulating over time. Another side effect due to its remote nature is many users do not feel compelled to protect their cloud accounts as they do their computers and mobile devices, leaving themselves vulnerable.

Users should follow several guidelines to stay safe, while benefiting from the cloud's capabilities. Some of these are simple best practices that should be implemented regardless, such as being wary of phishing attacks and not sharing your passwords. Below is some advice on how to actively protect yourself when using the cloud.

Use a different password for your cloud service
The first thing you must do when using a cloud service is to choose a distinct password for it. Do not use the same password you use for other sites, since it increases the risk that your account will fall into the wrong hands.

Each year, millions of users' credentials are stolen from websites. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is limit the potential damage from such a breach by using a different password for each of your accounts.

In fact, this type of attack was already used to target iCloud users in the past. In 2015, attackers used credentials leaked from various website breaches, such as the eBay breach, to log into iCloud accounts. Once inside, the attackers locked users' iPhones and iPads, demanding ransom in return for releasing them. For the attackers, this was easy money.

Use Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two factor authentication is a technology identifying users by two different components. The components could be something you know (password), something you own (chip, phone, etc.) or something you are, for example a biometric fingerprint. Usually, the two factors used are a password and a one-time passcode sent to a mobile device by SMS or automatic call. Using 2FA makes it significantly harder for attackers using brute force to find their way into your account. Most storage and cloud services support 2FA, check out the list of services using it.

This is not to say that using two factor authentication on its own is enough to keep you safe. Unfortunately, malware writers have already managed to bypass even this security method. However, it is a good start, and the 2FA technology rapid development will protect users even further in the future.

Control what you are uploading
Users should be aware if their accounts are set up to sync automatically. While this could be a convenient feature, you might not want to store certain data on a server you do not control. It is also advised that you check what you have already stored on your cloud service and remove what is not necessary.

Stay away from dangerous hotspots
Last, be aware that your communication with the cloud can be intercepted. Even amateur attackers can set-up a fake hotspot with a deceiving name to fool users into using them or even take over legitimate public hotspots. Attackers that gain control of your hotspot can conduct a Man-In-the-Middle attack, stealing whatever data is passing through the hotspot. Users should use only trusted private networks when accessing sensitive data.

Enjoy the cloud, but be careful
While there are many benefits in using cloud services, there are also risks. Users should be aware of them and protect themselves, just as they do when using their mobile devices and PCs.

More Stories By Donald Meyer

Donald Meyer, Head of Product Marketing, Data Center at Check Point Software Technologies, has more than fourteen years of networking and security industry experience. In his current role, he is responsible for Check Point data center and cloud security solutions. Prior to Check Point, Meyer served as Sr. Manager, Product Marketing at Aruba Networks where he was responsible for marketing wireless security, network access control, and network operations product lines. Subsequently, he held various Marketing positions at Juniper Networks, Nokia, Inc., Mitel, AlitGen Communications, and the Associated Press. Meyer holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, marketing concentration, from San Jose State University.

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