The cloud can be a blessing, but to a hacker it is a treasure trove of data ready for the picking.
If you are like most of us, you've been squirreling away data to the cloud more and more over the years. It's turned into an attic filled with notes, photos, music and more. That means it's become a place where hackers love to lurk.
According to anti-virus powerhouse McAfee, a third of all data breaches occur in the cloud. And corporate data breaches come with eye-popping price tags. The average cost of cleaning up and recovering from a data breach is now $3.79 million, up 23 percent over the last two years alone.
In May, the WannaCry ransomware attacks targeted and affected users in various countries across the globe by encrypting data files on infected computers and demanding users pay a $300US ransom in bitcoin to decrypt their files. In 2016, the average ransom per victim was $1,077, up from $294 in 2015 (a 266 percent increase).
While companies can invest in things like machine learning technology to try to disrupt hacking schemes, there are still things smaller companies and individuals can do to protect their data.
The usual advice of setting unique and complex passwords is always solid, but there are a few things you can do to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands, or worse being targeted by ransomware.
1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
MFA for short, is becoming more common for protected sites to fortify their stores. It requires two or more forms of identification before you are allowed access to your account.
Most often used as two-factor authentication, it comes in the form of a simple text message or email with a code that must be entered along with a password.
2. Back it up on the ground
Experts suggest backing up your data on the ground. Don't use the cloud as the only storage for your documents, photos and other sensitive information.
It can be a hassle, but you'll thank yourself later.
3. Don't use public wi-fi
It's tempting to sign onto the coffee shop's network instead of using your cell phone data, but is it worth the risk? Symantec says no.
"There is a deep divide between what people think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality," said Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Consumer Business Unit, Symantec. "What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cybercriminals through unsecure Wi-Fi Networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities."
If you do use public Wi-Fi, make sure your security software is up to date, watch for HTTPS and share as little as possible (that means passwords too).
4. Use security software
Cybersecurity companies combine advanced analytics, threat intelligence, signatures, and human expertise is the best way to protect you against emerging threats.
For example, Symantec blocked nearly 22 million WannaCry infection attempts across 300,000 endpoints, providing full protection for Symantec customers through its advanced exploit protection technology.
5. Contant vigilance
Always be on the lookout for the latest scams, McAfee said.
"Online threats are evolving all the time, so make sure you know what to look out for," cybersecurity blogger Gary Davis said. "Currently, 'ransomware' is on the rise. This is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your files unless you agree to pay a ransom. Stay on top of this and other threats by staying informed."