If you don’t want scammers to get your sensitive data through scam calls, your first defense is a phone number search to verify unknown callers. However, skilled scammers are more sophisticated. To get your private data, scammers use phishing or other methods, such as hacking your phone or service provider.
The solution to this is to store sensitive files on a cloud server that uses zero-knowledge encryption. For one, you get to remove the file from your phone and access it remotely anytime you want. More importantly, you get to secure your data in a place where no one else can access it – not even the service provider that operates the storage unit.
Think of your device as a safe deposit box. Besides authorized bank staff, only the account owner has a key to access the safe deposit box. Now, a thief may attempt to break into your deposit box and steal your valuables. But using brute force would cause a ruckus. A professional thief would attempt to get a copy of your key or the master key through elaborate means. Then, they can get the contents of your deposit box without anyone being the wiser.
Banks and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) do not insure the contents of safe deposit boxes. So, you lose all your valuables unless you have insurance.
The same thing applies to your phone.
According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the number of hacking attacks on smartphones has increased over the years. Not only that, but these attacks have grown more sophisticated over time. While there are several precautions you can take to protect the integrity of data stored on your phone, these measures are not failproof.
Mobile phones share many of the vulnerabilities of PCs. However, smartphones, unlike your PC, go with you everywhere. Phone users also tend to store sensitive data on their devices, such as credit card information and Social Security numbers. And compared to personal computers, the security on smartphones is pretty lax, and these devices are always on. Besides the several vulnerabilities a hacker can exploit to get into your phone, hackers also have a longer time to use all the tools in their arsenal to break into a device.
The most secure place to keep your data is on a cloud storage service that uses zero-knowledge encryption. When you use a staple cloud storage provider to store your files, the service provider encrypts it and keeps the key. However, the files are accessible to both you and the service provider. Per the CLOUD Act, a cloud storage provider may grant law enforcement access to your data. If you do not have illegal files to hide, this invasion of privacy shouldn’t bother you much.
However, those are the good guys by a mile and a half. If black hat hackers attack your service provider, they can access the files and steal your information directly. These hackers have been successful in the past. In 2012, Dropbox announced a data breach that affected 68 million users and stole emails and passwords. The estimated loss per person was about $1,100. Likewise, Apple’s iCloud suffered a data breach in 2018. Although Apple was hush-hush about it, hackers reportedly leaked the private files of many high-profile individuals, including Jennifer Lawrence.
Zero-knowledge cloud storage is a low-cost, secure way to save encrypted data such that only the user has access to it. No one else can see or access the files, not even the service provider or a disgruntled employee. More importantly, the service provider does not have a master key to your storage space. Thus, your files remain secure – even in a data breach – since you are the only one who has the access key to decrypt the files.
Of course, you will have to take certain precautions to tighten up security on your end – e.g., using a strong, unique password and VPN – but that’s just about it. Cloud storage with zero-knowledge encryption means your private data remains truly private. So, no data privacy law can hamstring the service provider into releasing your data, and a hacker may as well spend the brainpower and time watching Netflix.
Meanwhile, the service provider’s sole duty is to ensure that their data centers are up and running round the clock so that you can access your files at any time. The small monthly fee you pay for the premium version of the cloud storage service helps to keep this infrastructure running and safe from physical damage.
Several storage services offer zero-knowledge encryption. This list describes the top service providers in the privacy and security space.
Founded in 2011, Sync has become the best choice for individuals who want to keep their data safe from hackers and prying eyes. The company is consumer privacy-oriented, making it best suited for lawyers, investigative journalists, healthcare providers, and individuals who deal with sensitive company data.
Users, such as healthcare providers, who use Sync can rest assured that the service is compliant with privacy laws in the United States, e.g., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The service provider is also compliant with privacy laws across other countries in the world. Today, nearly 2 million users in over 180 countries store their files securely on Sync.
Besides complying with privacy laws, Sync implements industry best practices to keep files stored on its server secure. The company uses Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) to ensure you never lose your files, even if an event destroys data centers in a region. Simply put, your backup has a backup in several places. Ordinarily, a staple cloud storage provider using RAID would be a source of concern because it increases the odds of losing your private files to data breaches. However, because Sync uses zero-knowledge encryption, all copies of all files are secure.
A free Sync account gives you access to store 5GB of data. If you are not a heavy user and only need to save sensitive files that you want nobody to see, the free account would do. When you exhaust free storage, you must delete old files or upgrade to premium starting from $8.00 per month for 2TB of space. See other pricing depending on your needs.
When a company invited nearly 3000 hackers from Berkeley, Boston, MIT, and over 600 organizations to hack its encryption software and none succeeded in six months, you know it is another ball game entirely.
Since 2013, pCloud has provided private and secure cloud storage services to over 14 million persons through its data centers in Europe and the United States. Every user has access to secure and private cloud storage. However, only users who choose to store their files on European data centers enjoy the protection offered by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Besides zero-knowledge encryption, pCloud uses industry best practices to protect your files. It implements TLS/SSL protocol so that your files are protected from man-in-the-middle attacks during transfers. Likewise, its AES 256-bit encryption protects your data on its servers. The cloud storage service provider also uses two-factor authentication to protect users who forget their passwords or whose account credentials have been compromised by hackers.
IceDrive provides the same level of encryption as Sync and pCloud, and at a lower price. However, it ranks lower because it is a nascent cloud storage service without advanced features. Persons who just want to upload their data and access it whenever and wherever will love IceDrive. But, if you collaborate with others or want to use this cloud storage with work apps, your options are pretty much limited.
Despite this, IceDrive aces every checkmark when it comes to security. The service provider encrypts your data in transit so that you are immune to man-in-the-middle attacks when uploading your files to a remote server. Once on the server, IceDrive uses at-rest encryption. So, your files are pretty much in a vault at this stage. Zero-knowledge makes sure that neither the service provider nor third parties can access your data.
IceDrive free plan gives users access to 10GB of storage. From there, a user can choose from its various paid plans. The LITE plan costs $1.67 per month and gives users access to 150GB of space. Its PRO plan costs $4.17 per month and gives access to 1 TB of space. Individuals and businesses with huge space needs can buy the IceDrive PRO+ plan for $15.00 per month for 5TB storage space.
MEGA is a cloud storage service founded in 2013. The New Zealand company offers the most generous free cloud storage space out there – 20GB. Many cloud storage service providers use free storage space to draw attention away from deficiencies in privacy and security. Not MEGA. There are multiple levels of security to guarantee privacy.
The service provider implements zero-knowledge encryption to protect user files. MEGA uses AES 128-bit encryption to protect files at rest on its servers. TLS protocol protects data during transfer between the data center and the user’s device. Furthermore, two-factor authentication (2FA) protects users who forget their passwords or when hackers steal login credentials.
Despite its many excellent features, MEGA paid storage plans do not come cheap. The cheapest plan starts at $5.86 per month, and users only get access to a scrawny 400GB of storage space. Individuals with more storage needs must upgrade to the $11.73 per month plan to get 2TB of storage space. Businesses that can afford it pay a monthly fee of $23.47 and $35.22 for 8TB and 16TB, respectively.
Another problem users reportedly face is slow server speed. Many users report that MEGA caps the bandwidth at 5GB every 6 hours per IP address, a claim that MEGA disputes. MEGA claims to process file transfers at the maximum possible speed regardless of account plan, but users parry the defense with proof of throttling. A potential explanation for this is that users’ internet service providers are responsible for the throttling. Bottom-line, the cloud storage provider does keep your files secure, but the reception is poor.
iDrive has all the features a user can expect to find in a cloud storage service provider that uses zero-knowledge encryption. The free account gives 5GB of storage space. After that, a user can choose any of its premium plans from $59.62 to $749.63 per year. Paid users get anywhere from 5TB to 50TB, depending on their plan. The large storage size makes iDrive an attractive choice for businesses with huge storage needs, but users reportedly experience slow speed using the service. Other than this speed, iDrive is a solid choice for persons with privacy needs.