Security of Portable Storage Devices: Cloud vs External Hard Drive

When it comes to portable storage devices, there are two main options: external hard drives and the “Cloud.” The data storage system known as the Cloud allows information stored in it to be accessible from any computer with access to the internet. While this may seem an easy and convenient way to store your information, it comes its own set of risks: its virtue of accessibility to you from anywhere means that it also allows hackers access from anywhere, too. This concern continues to grow as the number of people using the Cloud increases.

An annual Norton Cybercrime Report suggests online crime costs the world economy an estimated $110 billion (88 billion euros) in 2011. It also estimates that 556 million people have been victims of a cybercrime at some point during their lives. That is more than the entire population of the European Union. According to Andrea Wittek, founder and CEO of BoxCryptor, the Cloud is a particularly appetizing target to online hackers due to the sheer number of people storing data of all sorts in it. One way to minimize your risk when storing data in the cloud is to encrypt it. Encrypted data is rendered illegible unless the encryption is bypassed or data is “unlocked” with a password. However, even this does not protect data completely from expert hackers.

My solution? Invest in an external hard drive. These handy things allow for extra (and portable!) storage, and since they are not connected to the World Wide Web, they are not accessible to cyber criminals unless/until connected to a computer with an internet connection. So while not in use, your files are safely out of reach of the likes of hackers. However, these devices also come with some risks. The risks of external hard drives include their ability to be physically stolen, so be sure to keep them secure when you travel with them. The risk of contracting a virus also arises since, as the above article talks about, “Windows will automatically run a program installed to a special file on external hard drives. Viruses install themselves onto this special file so that they can spread to all the computers you use your external hard drives on.” These risks can be minimized by having good anti-virus software on one’s computer and being wary of connecting your external hard drive to unfamiliar computers. While there are risks associated with external hard drives, these risks are a little more in the control of the user versus the risks that come with storing data in the Cloud.

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