How safe is the cloud?

Cloud Security Issues

When it comes to important documents, sensitive data and other materials that we probably wouldn't want the entire world seeing, people like to at least feel like they have a certain amount of control. Lock boxes, Cayman Islands bank accounts, Dick Cheney's human-sized safe, all of these are designed to not only keep certain things away from prying eyes, but also to give the owner a certain amount of comfort in knowing that it will take at least some dynamite and a blow torch for anyone to get their filthy mitts on it.

So it's no surprise that security is one of the biggest concerns associated with cloud computing. By moving to the cloud, people and businesses give up control of both their information and the way in which it is protected [source: Farrar].

There are two major types of security threats involved in cloud computing: password vulnerability and en-route exposure. Because cloud services are internet-based, access to them (like e-mail and social media accounts) is typically protected by a password. The password is the key to your data. A hacker who gets his hands on it also gets his hands on any data the password is protecting [source: Kantra].

Personal data is also susceptible to threats on the way to the cloud. In other words, your stuff is like an electronic version of Little Red Riding Hood, traversing a perilous path from device to cloud. Wild wolves are all around, frothing at the mouth at the prospect of intercepting the data along the way [source: Farrar].

That said, every data storage system faces its own security threats. An external hard drive, for example, is susceptible to physical damage, whether by flood, fire or theft. If the hard drive happens to be stored near your computer, it's possible that both the drive and the computer are damaged at the same time, meaning that Great American Novel you've been chipping away at all these years is now gone. In the event of a cloud service failure, on the other hand, the user still has the original data on a PC [source: Kantra].

With these issues in mind, users can take some basic precautions to limit their vulnerability.