Living Safely in the ‘Cloud’

Living Safely in the ‘Cloud’

By Nigel Benjamin

It's holiday time! Aside from a noticeable change from sunny to cloud-filled skies, this time of year ushers in increased shopping and social activities. Taking place not only in the “real world” but also online, they can expose you to possible infections.

Like most online shoppers, you may not be completely aware of how to protect yourself from online identity theft and other online threats, such as fraud, email scams, phishing and virus attacks. You are banking, shopping and living more of your life on the Web, unaware that as you access information and leave your cyber fingerprint behind, you’re also leaving a trail of identity crumbs.

But cyber threats ramp up and rain down viciously during this time of year! Can you root them out on your own? Probably not. So if you're not a computer security expert -- and you don’t have a squad of security elves waiting readily at your disposal -- how do you protect yourself from identity theft and other online threats?

Watching the Weather
Forrester Research and other business and technology analysts are predicting rapid change in the cyber security environment -- a shift from traditional software product solutions to what is referred to as “software as a service,” or SaaS. The advantage of SaaS in the “cloud” is that it gives you affordable, subscription-based access to a full suite of best-in-class security software solutions without you having to download and install bulky programs to your PC -- or pay for upgrades!

Sweet! … But what is the “cloud”? The cloud is a general term that refers to having remote access to your personal digital files and many applications from anywhere on any Internet-connected PC or mobile device, at any time, on a pay-as-you-go basis. Most importantly, being “in the cloud” means that this software floats on the Internet instead of being tied to any one of your devices, providing a protective layer between you and potential security threats. Better yet, it means you will never have to download another update, worry about losing data or wonder how your ever-rotating arsenal of digital devices will stay safe online.

Is online holiday shopping sounding safer yet? It should. Shifting the home base of cyber security and identity protection from your own much-loved but admittedly fragile digital devices to the cloud ensures that you will bask in the shade of an Internet-sized umbrella. An umbrella that will rotate to meet your security needs when you need them the most -- like now, as you send out more precious personal financial data than ever in the name of holiday cheer!

Much of what you do is already in the cloud. (You have a laptop, iPhone or Smartphone, you access webmail, backup files online, or share and store photos on Facebook or Picasa, then you are already living in a personal cloud or soon will be!) And guess what? More cloud services are headed your way!

The Cloud Has You Covered
Cloud computing is like having your own handler or personal assistant to take care of all the tasks you don’t like to do or aren’t good at -- and luckily, security is at the top of your delegation list. Imagine not having to worry about the latest virus attack, drive-by downloaded worm, key loggers that steal your passwords or even “scare-ware” that looks like a legitimate alert from your security software but ends up infecting your computer instead. The cloud keeps you safe, offering you these advantages:

  • A total security umbrella. It completely protects your private information; blocks spyware, adware and Trojans; proactively detects and rejects viruses and worms; slams spam; and stops hackers. To prevent identity theft, it protects and manages your passwords, encrypts bank account numbers and monitors credit card activity for fraud. This makes your holiday shopping safer, and banking from any PC or Internet-connected device becomes worry-free all year-round.
  • Speed and performance. In-the-cloud services are always on, applications are updated automatically and the latest bugs are fixed on the fly. Processing capacity is distributed, optimizing both Internet speed and PC performance. Your music collection, photo albums and other digital documents? They’re all stored securely, accessible to you or your authorized users only.
  • More convenience and savings. You can choose from a diverse selection of applications to meet every need, and you can access them along with their private documents from anywhere on any device at any time. Services are scalable, meaning you can add more or use less depending on your needs without huge installation headaches. Like a utility, you only pay for what you use … and that leaves more money for shopping!

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
While securing personal identity, data and other sensitive information will continue to be a top concern for cloud service providers and their customers, the future of cloud computing is bright. As more services move to the cloud, the National Cyber Safety Alliance and other cyber crime fighting specialists are stepping up to the task of eliminating vulnerabilities, using real-time and predictive threat prevention innovations to keep your computer safe. In fact, an automated cloud-based malware research database monitors the behavior of more than 125 million executable threats and adds updated protection for more than 30,000 new threats every day!

With the holiday shopping season now here, knowing how to protect yourself from online identity theft and a host of deceptive fraud schemes is critical. Ensure you are protected by a total cloud-based security umbrella so you and your loved ones can search, surf, share, shop and celebrate the season safely. Have a safe, secure, and happy holiday season!

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Nigel Benjamin is a writer and marketing communications specialist with a keen interest in emerging technologies.