Like many internet users today, chances are you tend to store a lot of your files on an online storage service for convenience. And why wouldn’t you? You can snap a photo with your smartphone and with a tap of a button have it uploaded to your Dropbox account almost instantly.
There’s not much of a need to plug your phone in to your computer to transfer your files anymore, saving you a lot of time and hassle. However, there are a few things to consider when you choose to use an online storage service over just manually uploading your files to your computer. First, are you doing this on the go?
If you prefer to use the internet while sipping on coffee at a local cafe, the possibility of a cyber-criminal getting into your device--and perhaps your accounts--is very real. Hackers sometimes hang out in and near shops offering public WiFi, as those using unsecured internet connections are easy targets for them. In fact, they could gain access to your device in as little as 10 minutes.
So what can really happen if this occurs and they make their way into your accounts, such as the one you use for your online storage service?
Invasion of Privacy
This may be a given, but just think of what it could really mean. A cyber-criminal could not only see all of your files (including any photos of yourself, family or friends that you’ve stored), but also distribute them across the net however they please. Sure, your photos may not make the headlines like those of celebrities who have had their accounts hacked, but it can be embarrassing nonetheless!
Photos aren’t the only things commonly stored on online storage services though, so what if someone were to gain access to your files? For some people, that might mean that a hacker just got a hold of some of their medical records, their address, and perhaps even their phone number (if they did not already get that from hacking into your smartphone) or other sensitive information.
Sometimes having access to your online storage service is all a hacker needs to commit identity theft. Your medical records or even files you personally created and stored could include your full name, address, date of birth and even your Social Security number. What’s worse is that if you tend to save word documents with your passwords listed in order to remember them, they could potentially access your online banking account as well.
It’s always best to avoid saving any of these sort of details online or on your computer and/or mobile devices. Hackers don’t always need very much information to pose as you, whether for financial gains or to “catfish” people online. Also, some financial institutions may be inclined to believe the hacker if they call up posing as you.
When they have your personal information, it’s possible for them to alter your account over the phone (for example, if they call in to change the address on the account or request a replacement credit card). Changing the address associated with your credit card can actually be as easy as logging into your online banking account as well, so even if they only access your login details, they can stir up quite a bit of trouble.
Loss of Your Files
Although sometimes less of an issue (at least for those who keep backups of their files stored elsewhere),the loss of all of your stored files can be a probable outcome of cyber-criminals getting into your online storage service. Once they’re in, they can basically decide what they want to do and some of these cyber-criminals are actually more interested in trolling than they are in committing identity theft.
Losing all of your data can be a real pain, and what better way for hackers to amuse themselves than to ruin your day! Consider keeping backups of all your files, whether they’re stored online or not. Simply save copies on more than one (secured) device to protect your data.
How to Avoid All of the Above
The most important step you can take is to safeguard your internet-enabled devices before a cyber-attack even occurs. When it comes to your online storage service, the service itself is generally pretty safe, but the problem lies in the fact that you’re always logged into your account if you use a service such as Dropbox.
Anyone who uses your computer, smartphone or tablet, whether by force (hacking) or with permission, can access your online storage service if you’re always logged into it. To avoid your devices from being hacked in the first place, secure them with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and an anti-virus program. Most importantly, the VPN will encrypt your connection, so you’ll be safe using the internet from any location.
There are additional benefits to using a VPN too, such as added privacy when browsing the net since it masks your IP address. By properly securing your devices, you’ll be able to avoid the worry of someone spying on your online activities and sneaking into your online storage service from afar. Luckily, you can simply secure both computers and mobile devices, allowing you to get the most out of your online storage service from wherever you are.
Have you ever encountered any security issues with the online storage service you use? If so, what happened? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Author Bio: Cassie has been an internet user for over a decade and has learned of a variety of different cyber threats during this time, as well as ways to avoid them. She commonly writes on the topic of net security to help other internet users. Read more of her work at SecureThoughts.com.