This week’s blog post is contributed by David Stansbury, Web Ad.vantage’s Search Marketing Specialist and IT superhero!
Can We Trust the Cloud?
Last week Google broke the story about a major cyber attack against their internal systems. Security leader McAfee explained in more detail how a highly-targeted phishing attack exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in Internet Explorer to gain access to internal computers. Gmail account information was targeted and intellectual property stolen. During Google’s ongoing investigation they found at least 20 other large corporations were targeted; U.S. Congressional and industry sources suggest at least 34. The repercussions of this attack on large computer systems has created waves across the computer industry to the top levels of government, with demands for an explanation being made from the White House.
While news of a large-scale data security breach at Google and other large companies is very important, unfortunately cyber espionage is not new to the information technology world. What is new is the ever-growing reach of “cloud” computing services into our online, always-connected lives. Many of us store our private emails, documents and financial information online, trusting our personal and business information to the cloud. The future of computing may bring us to rely almost entirely on the cloud. But when we cannot be assured our online data is completely secure, it calls us to question our trust in online computing and storage services.
But before the doom and gloom sets in, keep in mind that online services provided by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, HP and others are some of the most dependable and secure data systems available today. They have teams of highly-skilled engineers who constantly program, maintain, backup and update their systems. Compared to the lax security and data backup practices by some home users, cloud-based information storage can certainly be considered a worthwhile technology for data management.
Whether to trust your data to the cloud or not is something only you or your I.T. team can decide. Regardless if your data is stored locally or online, it is always critical to maintain regular backups. A combination of on-site, off-site and online data backup services should be considered as part of a comprehensive data backup and recovery plan. If your business relies on data, the life of your business may depend on it!
One fact noted by the Google’s investigation is how some user accounts had become compromised due to targeted phishing scams and malware on user’s computers. This underscores the responsibility each of us has to maintain security on the computers we use to access the internet.
What You Can Do:
From the first computer virus in 1971 and into the foreseeable future, the reality is we can never be complacent about computer security. Google considers computer security their highest priority and so should you. This means establishing and maintaining best security practices from government agencies and businesses all the way to keeping your Facebook account secure. Some good ways to keep your computer secure include:
- Always keep your Windows or Mac computer updated with the latest security updates.
- Use a modern, high-quality anti-virus software and ensure it is kept updated. If you do not wish to purchase software there are very good free ones such as AVG Free.
- Use secure, proven browser software when accessing the internet. We recommend Firefox, Safari or Chrome.
- Practice common sense while browsing, avoid web sites you do not know or trust. Visiting web sites or using P2P file sharing software that promise “free” illicit content such as commercial software, music, movies or adult material may expose your computer to dangerous malware. This includes smart phones.
- Back up your data regularly! If you store sensitive data like financial or tax records, consider using data encryption technology such as a secure USB drive to keep your information private in case of theft.
- Maintain physical security of your equipment, especially with portable devices such as a laptop computer, smart phone or PDA. Password-protect and encrypt your data where applicable.
- Use a good password and do not share it with others. Change your password if you suspect unauthorized persons might know it.
Additional sources of data security tips:
- Computer Associates
- National Cyber Security Alliance
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