Cloud security: Does the risk outweigh the rewards?


August 16, 2016


It’s 2016, and the push to move everything to the cloud has not slowed down one bit. Everyone from casual PC users to the heads of multi-billion dollar businesses are utilizing the advantages of cloud computing. And what’s not to love? The seemingly infinite amount of storage available? The file sharing capabilities? The geographical versatility? Well, as a technical account manager, the most popular question I get from clients is “What about security?”

The risk

Let’s take a look at cloud-hosted file sharing services such as Dropbox and One Drive. Both have a desktop client that allows you to quickly share and edit documents from your local file explorer. So, if you use one of these services, what happens when you accidentally open up that too-good-to-be-true email from a Nigerian prince?

In recent years, something called ransomware has been on the rise. This type of virus will take your computer’s data hostage and force you, the end user, to pay hackers to get your data back. You may have heard of Crypto-Locker and Crypto-Wall, two common and destructive ransomwares.

Back to that Nigerian prince. Let’s say you’ve clicked on the malicious email and you have Dropbox (or a similar file sharing service). The virus will begin encrypting your computer’s data, including all files and folders you have access to via Dropbox. This is where it starts getting bad, as Dropbox will not scan files before it syncs your local files to its servers. You know that folder you share with 20 other users? Once it’s been encrypted, none of them will be able to access the data it contains.

The solution

So, what should you do if you think you got Crypto’d? While getting infected is less than ideal, remain calm and follow these steps:

  • Take your computer offline by unplugging the Ethernet and turning off wireless. Shut down your computer if you’re not sure how to do these things.
  • Call your IT department immediately.
  • Begin the data backup restoration process. This should be handled by your managed services provider or IT department in accordance with your company’s cloud service provider policy.

Protecting yourself

In a nutshell, ransomware is scary! So, what should you be doing to protect yourself and your data?

  • Get a really good backup policy.
    1. If you use Dropbox or Cloud7 Files, you have something called a retention policy. This defines the period of time you have to recover corrupt, deleted or changed files, which is typically 30 days. In the event that your Dropbox gets Crypto’d, you will be able to restore your data as long as you do so within that time period. Check with your file sharing provider to find out your retention policy.
    2. If you save things locally to your hard drive, to a server or to an external hard drive, make sure those devices are being backed up somewhere.
  • Use good anti-virus software. This software can sometimes detect ransomware before it even gets opened.
  • Be cautious when opening emails. Are you actually expecting a random person to send you an expense report? Are you really related to that Nigerian prince? I always tell people that no matter how good their anti-virus software is, there’s no better security than using common sense. Being smart about emails and links is the best thing you can do to protect yourself.
  • Utilize your IT department. Not sure about that sketchy email? Should you really be clicking on that link? Ask your IT pros! We would all much rather you call in and ask about an email that turns out to be harmless than click on something that puts your company’s data at risk.

No matter your IT setup, the risk of virus infection or data loss will never be completely eradicated. That being said, utilizing cloud-based applications still remains one of the safest business practices out there, with many more benefits than drawbacks. Just be sure you have a solid backup plan in place, and always remember to use common sense!

Ben Bernstein MyITpros

The purpose of this blog is to answer the questions you ask! We have a wide variety of cloud services available- feel free to check them out here! If your business is just starting for disaster recovery and data backups- download our free . 

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