UMBC’s Haibin Zhang shares tips to secure data in the cloud

As more consumers rely on cloud-based data storage for everything from family photos to financial information, both experts and general users have voiced concerns about cloud security. In a new Conversation article recently published by Scientific American, Haibin Zhang, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, explains precautions consumers can take to protect their files in the cloud.

Zhang explains that data stored and secured using commercial cloud storage systems is encrypted, which means that without the key, the information looks like a series of meaningless characters. Encryption keys have the potential to be misused, if they end up in the wrong hands, which can compromise the security of files stored in a cloud.

“Just like regular keys, if someone else has them, they might be stolen or misused without the data owner knowing,” says Zhang. “And some services might have flaws in their security practices that leave users’ data vulnerable.”

Zhang notes that some cloud services allow customers to maintain their encryption key themselves, which give the consumer the control in ensuring that their data remains safe. Other services keep the encryption keys internally and manage the security for their customers. He says that while each option has benefits, it is important to recognize that “some services might have flaws in their security practices that leave users’ data vulnerable.”

To keep data secure in the cloud, Zhang suggests using enhanced security features offered by cloud storage companies and taking additional precautions that are available to individual customers. He recommends that people use a cloud storage service that allows customers to encrypt their data before uploading it for storage, and to rely on services that have been “validated by independent security researchers.”

Read “How secure is your data when it’s stored in the cloud?” in The Conversation for Zhang’s additional recommendations on securing data on the cloud. The piece also appeared in Scientific American, and has so far been read nearly 20,000 times.

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks. Photo by Yuri Samoilov, CC by 2.0.