Within the last year, there have been an alarming number of data breaches, the unintentional release of secure information, in the news each week.

Recently there was yet another credit card breach announced through the hardware giant Home Depot. Some are estimating that this breach could top the massive breach announced by Target last December. Other companies like JP Morgan Chase, Dairy Queen and UPS have also made the list of companies that have been hacked. Jessica Meyers, editor for the Boston Globe, has published an article,  Hackers threaten health care industry’s patient records, discussing yet another threat.

Now a breach of Apple’s iCloud storage has hit the newsstand. A number of private celebrity photos were posted to the Internet. However, Apple says there was no iCloud breach, that the theft investigation discovered specific celebrity accounts were compromised by a targeted attack on usernames, passwords and security questions. This is very different than the banks and retail giants where technical flaws were discovered and exploited.

Moving beyond the realm of hackers and thieves, there is a concern about the most popular Web search engine and mail provider, Google, using a new twist on a tactic called data mining on its users. Data mining is the process of scanning the contents of millions of email messages and building user profiles for purposes such as targeted marketing. These tactics walk a fine line with regard to privacy laws.

Earlier this year, Google began to perform data mining on its users while the messages were in transit. Until this new method was implemented, the company was unable to mine your email data when opened on an iPhone mail client, through Microsoft Outlook, or through some other email client. By mining in transit, Google is able to know the contents of that email regardless of what you do with the message. What this means is they now know more about what’s in your mailbox than you do. While their intent may be purely marketing driven, the power of information that they have access to is scary to say the least.

Consider these facts:

  • Your provider has the capability to know everything about you and your company
  • Your provider would know who you communicate with
  • Your provider would know what you are developing
  • Your provider could know the next new patent idea

Cyber security issues have become so commonplace that we risk becoming desensitized to the news of each incident. For example, has anyone purchased anything at Home Depot using their credit card in the last year or more? If so, have you been monitoring your credit card statements any closer? These breaches may be out of our control, but we need to make sure that we remain vigilant in the aspects that are within our control.

In the coming weeks, my plans are to write more about the cloud and its benefits to businesses. Consider how you can be sure the information you store on the cloud is safe. Here are some tips to keep your data secure on the cloud:

  • Read the user agreement to find out how your cloud service storage works
  • Be serious about passwords. Change your cloud passwords regularly. I can’t stress this enough!
  • Encrypt
  • Use an encrypted cloud service

Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stay vigilant.

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