Is the future of ‘the Cloud’ looking overcast?

Apple’s iCloud security system seemed to be in hot water last week when private photos of celebrities were published on the web and quickly spread through cyberspace.  Apple was quick to deny the allegations, stating that the hacker had retrieved the photos not through a breach of its security system, but rather through a persistent attack on passwords, usernames and security questions.

Nonetheless, concern has been raised over just how protected our data stored on the Cloud is.  And, more significantly, should ultimate liability for the security of our data lie in our hands or those of the company in question?  Given that our daily lives are forecast to be under the shadow of the Cloud forever more, how to use it securely to your advantage has never been more critical.  With this in mind, here are some crucial guidelines you should follow to keep your personal information as protected as possible and to avoid a cyberstorm.

Two-Factor Authentification

Most large companies, including Apple and Google, have introduced a security feature which is yet to be embraced by everyone: two-factor authentification.  Should you wish to access your account, not only will you need your username and password but also a code sent to your personal device, be it your mobile phone or iPad, which will shortly expire after login.  This security measure goes one step further than the mere use of passwords (evidently vulnerable to expert hackers) since possession of the handheld device connected to your account is also required.  To set up this measure on your Apple account, follow these instructions.

Password Protection

We’re ambushed by password advice: change it regularly, use a combination of numbers and letters (lower and upper case) and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.  Yet did you ever think about your security questions?  When filling them in to retrieve your password (‘What is your mother’s maiden name?’ instantly springs to mind), never supply real answers but use random combinations of words and numbers instead, such as RedDog145.  This could reduce the chance of your account getting into undesirable hands.

Keep It Offline

Yet, most importantly, if you don’t want it out of your hands, keep it offline.  It’s difficult for the non computer-savvy among us to keep up with the latest in high-tech security advice.  Better to exercise caution than to regret it later.  Ensure auto-sync to the iCloud is not set up on your Apple account because even once your documents are deleted from your phone or your laptop they may not have been eradicated from the Cloud.  Access this set-up under your iCloud settings and turn off documents and Photo Stream.

All in all, large companies have routinely relied on customer trust: do we really question what they do with our information or do we naively click ‘Agree’?  The latest attack might just bring about changes in the way companies explain the Cloud to regular consumers, which will hopefully lead to greater visibility for all.

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