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An Average User's Guide to Security - Cloud Computing

written by: C.D. Crowder•edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 5/28/2011

Cloud computing lets you access your information from any computer. However, placing your information someone other than your own hard drive has its risks. The security issues with using the cloud are relatively small, but every user should be aware before diving in.

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    Hacked Account

    The most common security issue is a hacked account. Just like with any online account, anyone who can guess your password suddenly has access to everything you've stored. When connected to your own personal computer, this puts even your home computer at risk of being hacked.

    256px-Cloud computing icon.svg There are several ways to prevent this. First of all, always use a non-obvious password. Never use something like your birthday, address or anniversary. These are easy to guess. Take the time to come up with something unique, using a combination of upper and lower case letters along with numbers. Anytime you can replace a letter with a number, such as 3 for the letter E, do it.

    If you access cloud computing accounts from your home or business computer, you are probably safe. However, accessing your account from any other computer, puts you at risk. You never know what type of security those computers use. It is possible for hackers to install keyloggers just for this reason. Only use computers you can trust if possible.

    If you must use a public computer, change your password as soon as possible when you return home. Even if someone gets your old password, it will no longer be valid, keeping your account safe.

    Image Credits: WikiMedia Commons / Rate

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    Lost or Deleted Data

    With many home users taking advantage of the cloud for data recovery, much like a business, the possibility of lost or deleted data is a major security flaw. As with any computer, hardware does fail from time to time. Another issue is a major virus that works its way into the servers storing all your precious data.

    No one wants to believe cloud computing security could be vulnerable in this area, but it is. Though fail safes and security measures are in place to prevent issues like this, the possibility is very real. If a virus gets in, it could delete much of the stored information and even replicate to backup servers before anyone could stop it. At this point, very little, if any, of your data could be recovered.

    During system or hardware upgrades, data might be lost. When copying information from one drive to another, some files may get left behind for whatever reason. With hundreds of millions of files, it is easy to miss the few that didn't copy.

    Always keep a home backup of your most important information. This gives you an extra layer of protection.

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    Accidental Sharing

    When using the cloud, you have the option of being private or a social butterfly. You may share your information with the world, a few select people or no one at all. The choice is yours. However, just like with lost data, settings may get changed when upgrades or updates occur. The benefits of the cloud are extensive, but any data you place out there has the potential of being accidentally shared.

    Think of it as Facebook. When Facebook changes, sometimes all profiles are made public temporarily, no matter what the user settings are. The same applies here.

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    Misplaced Account

    This security risk is up there with a hacked account. The results are often the same. One day you log in and viola, you are seeing someone else's account. So where is your account? Likely under another person's login. This very rarely happens and usually occurs due to a system glitch or update gone wrong. The best thing you can do is logout and contact the company immediately.

    The problem lies with being able to trust other users to do the same. If you have personal information you don't want to make public, you can't always trust someone else to just log out and leave things be.

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    Cloud computing security issues are very real. Though many users think security is only a problem for big companies, the average user is very much affected. Whether you make yourself vulnerable through a weak password or public computer or the fault lies with the company providing hosting, any information you place on the cloud could be compromised.