Tech Tips: Steps to securing your cloud storage

Cloud storage has become the de-facto standard for consumers to store both their files and their backups, for good reason. It’s convenient, efficient, and easy to access on nearly any computer or phone. But our reliance on cloud storage means that it’s more important than ever to understand why cybercriminals want our cloud data, and the lengths they’ll go to get it. Here’s how you can reconfigure your cloud storage so you can protect your data without sacrificing convenience.

The word “cloud” itself can seem confusing. What, exactly, is the cloud? It’s a shorthand term for the servers we access via the internet. These servers provide a wide range of services, everything from email and websites to videos and social media. In fact, most of what we do every day is cloud-based.

Many people also store files in the cloud instead of on their computers. This is partially a storage issue. The amount of storage on your computer or phone is finite, but you can access as much online storage as you need. Storing photos and videos in the cloud is especially popular because the file sizes are so large.

Tech companies have been encouraging consumers to move their regular documents to the cloud by baking cloud access right into the computer itself. Windows users can access OneDrive through Windows, and Mac users can click on iCloud in the Finder.

Of course, online data storage has its risks, and the primary one is cybercrime. The increasing use of cloud storage is like a gold mine to thieves. Anything they might want, from consumer tax records to credit card numbers, is right there for the taking – but first they have to bypass the cloud security, and the easiest way to do that is to prey on the accounts that have the weakest security settings.

That’s why it’s important to lock down your cloud security. Tech companies understand this, which is why they walk you through the basics when you set up your cloud account. But it’s always a good idea to take another look so you understand the settings that are available and how to get the most out of them.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your cloud data is to use a strong password, preferably a random one generated by a password manager. You also should enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. Don’t use the same password elsewhere.

Watch for phishing attempts to steal your cloud username and password. These could come in the form of email, social media, or even text messages to your phone. Be wary of suspicious messages from people you know. Their accounts may have been hacked.

When setting up your cloud security questions, use answers that are hard to guess. You can even make up fictitious answers as long as you remember them. Use your password manager to store the answers.

Since cloud services are so tightly integrated into today’s computers, keeping your system updated will add another layer of protection.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at