Most people use cloud services for their storage needs and to back up their files. The idea of saving family pictures or videos and to cherish those moments in nostalgia has an emotional ring to it. Professional use for cloud storage doesn’t require an introduction. Majority of users upload their documents and files to Google Drive and our digital presence is linked to Google accounts. All your data is synced to your Android devices, making it convenient to access Google Drive whenever you need. But do you know how Google maintains the security and privacy of our uploaded data? Is Google Drive actually secure and safe to use? Let us go into how the files are encrypted and saved to the cloud.
Is Google Drive Secure and Safe to Use?
Encryption in Google Drive
Google Drive uses AES, a secure encryption algorithm which follows the US Government encryption standard. AES is impervious to most privacy attacks.
Chunks of incoming data are separately encrypted with a data key unique to each chunk. This data key further undergoes the encryption process using a specific data encryption key. This way Google Drive provides protection while the files are in the process of uploading (in transit) and later when they are in rest after being saved.
Google doesn’t provide its users with an explanation of how this process is carried out in the Google Drive environment. So there is no way of knowing if the integrated encryption is enough for your privacy and security.
Limitations to Encryption
- Your file has Transport Layer Security (TLS) protection which is designed to protect data during uploading. But the moment your data reaches Google Drive, it is decrypted for just an instant so Google can analyze the files before second encryption. However swiftly the scans happen, at this moment, a data leak can occur.
- You may feel like you have no control over customization and the decision making as you don’t have access to Google’s encryption keys. This translates to you having no real control over your own data.
Can I Improve Google Drive’s Security?
There is no system which is absolutely flawless. So does this mean you must think twice before you place your trust in Google Drive and upload your private files? However, you can surely follow some steps to improve your account’s privacy and security.
Use additional encryption
Encrypt the files first on your own system before you upload them to the cloud. Make use of any of the apps in the market. Here are some of them.
Using Boxcryptor, you can change the settings on Google Drive account so that only you can view and edit the files and folders you encrypt. Boxcryptor also encrypts your files and folders from your system by creating a virtual drive, then uploads those files to your Google Drive account. Future files and other cloud providers are automatically added to the drive.
Since Boxcryptor app is closed-source, there is some skepticism regarding backdoors. Free download of Boxcryptor offers high security, but it has limitations as you can use it only on 2 synced devices. Try to purchase the premium version to access more features and number of business and personal accounts.
Worried about backdoors? Try Cryptomator, an open source application that doesn’t require user registration. Cryptomator doesn’t create any extra folders on your system but just adds a Cryptomator vault on your Google Drive. You can add files to a virtual hard disk, which is required to view and edit your data one at a time. It means only the file you are working on changes and the remaining files stay encrypted.
Rclone, another open source application, provides much-needed control over synchronizing your data to the cloud. This command line program has a crypt function that allows you to encrypt files on your system and customize the sync process.
Set a Two-factor authentication (2FA)
We have learned that Google Drive uses double encryption. In addition to that, you set up a two-step verification method which will form an extra blanket of security. Two-factor authentication (2FA) means you’ll be adding two verification steps on your device using a password manager. This makes it that much difficult for hackers to gain access to your information. If you are using Google Drive and own an Android device, put in some time and effort to secure your Android ecosystem.
Connect using secure networks
When you are concerned about your data privacy, it makes sense to take precautions that you use only secure connections. At one point, everybody must have accessed their Google Drive account outside of work or residence. In such cases, it is better to connect using internet data on your mobile device rather than using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Keep your Wi-Fi setting off as unwanted elements could gain access through a network which connects without a password. Your financial data is most vulnerable if you frequently shop on the go.
Pay Attention to App Permissions
When you download apps from the Google Play store, you must authorize the apps to access some of the functions on your device. This might be necessary for the apps to read data synced to your Google Drive account.
Use Google account settings to check and change the permissions you have granted to your apps. In the Security tab under Account permissions, you can view the whole list. You can revoke the access to some of the apps that you no longer use.
Use a VPN
A VPN will keep you protected and encrypt all your data. So even if you access an unsecured Wi-Fi, your usernames, passwords, and other data will remain safe. When you use a VPN, your data is sent in an encrypted form. So even if someone intercepts the files in between, they will get encrypted chunks of data that wouldn’t make sense to them.
So, Is Google Drive Secure and Safe to Use?
Google encrypts all your files internally and Google Drive is indeed secure. But often we see news about celebrity photos being leaked or some hackers group accessing crucial data. Users are the weakest links targeted by customized ads as they use their free product Google Drive. By using the tips mentioned here, you can strengthen your account security and privacy.