Since the pandemic started, a lot of schools and businesses were forced to transition to an online setup. And with this came the rise in popularity of tools like Zoom, Slack, and of course, Google Drive.
Google Drive is generally considered safe. However, like all digital tools and platforms, it has also had its fair share of controversies. Google Drive, for one, has been involved in hacking incidents and scams that use the platform to share malicious files.
So you might be wondering how secure Google Drive is, especially for personal information.
We use Google Drive, too, and we understand your dilemma, especially with technology evolving rapidly and hacking methods becoming more and more sophisticated. So we did our research by examining official Google resources and synthesizing dozens of reviews from independent sites.
In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what Google Drive is, how safe it is to use, especially for your confidential information, and the different kinds of attacks it is prone to. We’ll also give you a few steps you can take so you can add a few extra layers of security around your data.
Don’t miss out on crucial tips that can help you mitigate security risks. Read without skipping and we’ll tell you the biggest risk to your Google Drive and what you can do about it so you can make the most of the online storage platform.
How does Google Drive secure your files and data?
Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service developed by Google. Launched on April 24, 2012, it allows users to store files in the cloud, share files, and edit documents collaboratively.
When you upload a file to Google Drive, it’s encrypted with 256-bit AES encryption. This means that only the person with the encryption key can access the data. The key is stored on Google’s servers and not on your device.
What kind of encryption does Google Drive offer?
Google Drive offers two types of encryption: server-side encryption and client-side encryption.
- Server-side encryption is when the data is encrypted on the server using 128-bit AES encryption before it is sent to the client.
- Client-side encryption is when the data is encrypted on the client’s device with 256-bit AES encryption before it is sent to the server.
This means that your data is doubly encrypted and it would be very difficult for a hacker to decrypt it.
In addition to encryption, Google Drive also offers two-factor authentication. This means that in order to access your account, you need to provide two forms of login verification.
For example, you may need to enter your password and a code that is sent to your phone. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your account.
Google Drive also offers security features that allow you to control who has access to your files and what they can do with them. For example, you can set a file to “view only” so that other users can only view it and not download or make changes to it.
You can also password-protect files and set expiration dates so that they’re automatically deleted after a certain amount of time.
How Google Drive may be vulnerable
Despite the security measures that Google has in place, there are still some ways that Google Drive may be vulnerable to attack.
1. Phishing attacks
One way that hackers could access your account is through a phishing attack. In a phishing attack, hackers send you an email that looks like it’s from a trusted source, such as Google.
The email may contain a link that takes you to a fake website where you’re asked to enter your login information. If you enter your information on the fake website, the hackers will be able to access your account.
To protect yourself from phishing attacks, never click on links in emails unless you’re sure they’re from a trusted source. You can hover over the link to see where it will take you before you click on it.
2. Malware attacks
Another way that hackers could access your account is through a malware attack.
In a malware attack, hackers infect your computer with a virus or other malicious software. The software then allows the hackers to access your account without you knowing.
To protect yourself from malware attacks, make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer. You should also be careful about what emails you open and what websites you visit.
3. Insider threats
While Google takes steps to secure its servers, there is always the possibility of an insider threat. It’s when someone who has legitimate access to the system uses their access to do something malicious.
For example, a rogue employee could delete files or leak confidential information.
To protect yourself from insider threats, it’s important to keep an eye on your account activity and be aware of who has access to your data. If you see any suspicious activity, you should report it to Google.
4. Data loss
Even with the best security measures in place, there’s always the possibility of data loss. Data loss can occur for a variety of reasons, such as hardware failure or human error.
To protect yourself, you should create backups of your data regularly. You can store backups on your computer or on another storage service, such as Dropbox or Amazon S3.
Despite Google’s security measures, there’s always the possibility of a cyberattack. In fact, Google Drive was the target of a phishing attack in 2017.
The attack used fake emails that looked like they were from Google Drive and asked users to click on a link to view a shared document. If the users clicked on the link, they were taken to a fake website that asked them to enter their Google Drive credentials.
Once the attackers had the credentials, they could access the victim’s account and steal their data.
Another way that Google Drive could be vulnerable to cyberattacks is if hackers are able to gain access to Google’s servers. While this is unlikely, it’s possible. If hackers were able to gain access to Google’s servers, they would be able to access all the data that is stored on Google Drive.
To protect yourself from cyberattacks, you should always keep your antivirus software up to date and be cautious about the links you click on. You should also consider encrypting your data before you upload it to Google Drive.
6. Data breaches
Another way that your data could be compromised is if there’s a data breach at Google. While Google has never had a major data breach, there have been some minor breaches in the past.
In 2014, for example, hackers could gain access to some Google Drive accounts by exploiting a security flaw. The hackers were then able to view the victim’s files and download them.
To protect yourself from data breaches, you should always keep your account information safe and be careful about what information you share online. You should also consider using a password manager to generate and store strong passwords for your accounts.
But here’s the biggest risk: YOU.
While Google Drive is generally secure for storing your confidential information, it’s easier for malicious people to trick you than to breach the drive’s security measures.
They can use the platform to share files with hidden malware, use fake Google Drive links as phishing links, and create fake Google Drive websites.
Criminals can use these tactics to steal your information, commit identity theft, spy on your business, or launch a ransomware attack.
As the user, you need to be aware of the risks and activities that can compromise your information. Because you can connect your Google Drive to your mobile phones and computers, your data that is synchronized becomes more vulnerable.
So, it’s important to be informed, vigilant, and responsible when using Google Drive and all your other devices that synchronize your data.
How to protect yourself as a Google Drive user
Now that you understand the risks and vulnerabilities, you can take other steps to protect yourself as a Google Drive user.
Use a strong password
Make sure that you have a strong password for your account. Avoid using easily guessed words or phrases that you can find in the English dictionary, as well as your birthday, pet’s name, nickname, etc.
Make sure to use a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Ideally, your password is 16 characters minimum.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
You should also enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an extra layer of security. 2FA requires users to confirm their identity with a second factor, such as a code from a physical token or a mobile phone.
This makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to access a Google Drive account, even if they have the password.
Keep your information private
Be careful about what kind of information you store on Google Drive. Remember that the company does have access to your data.
If you are concerned about someone being able to access your account, you can set expiration dates and password-protect your files. You can also limit the permissions of other users so that they can only view or comment on a file but not download or make changes to it.
Use encryption before you upload and transfer
If you’re storing sensitive information, such as financial records or personal information, you should encrypt it before uploading it to the cloud. You can use Google’s built-in encryption features or a third-party encryption program.
Audit linked Google Drive apps
If you have connected any third-party apps to Google Drive, it’s important to audit them regularly. Make sure that you trust the app and that it has a good reputation. Also, check the permissions to ensure that the app only has access to the data it needs.
Review shared documents
If you share documents with other users, review the permissions from time to time. Make sure that only people who need access to the document have it and that they only have the level of access that they need.
Keep an eye on activity logs
Finally, keep an eye on the activity logs for your account. Google keeps track of all the activity on your account, including when files are added, deleted, or downloaded.
If you see any suspicious activity, you can report it to Google and take steps to secure your account.
Best Google Drive alternatives
While Google Drive is a great service, you may feel that it’s not the best option for storing your confidential information. If you’re looking for an alternative to Google Drive, there are a few options that you can consider.
SpiderOak is a cloud storage service that encrypts your data before it is uploaded to its servers. This means that even if its servers were hacked, the hackers would not be able to access your data.
Nextcloud is a self-hosted solution, which means you host the software on your own server. This gives you more control over security, and you don’t have to worry about data breaches at the service provider.
If you’re looking for a Google Drive alternative that is more user-friendly, you can consider Dropbox. It offers many of the same features like Google Drive, but it’s easier to use. Dropbox also has a feature that allows you to password-protect files.
Microsoft OneDrive works a lot like Google Drive but is more ideal for Microsoft Office users because, like Google Drive, it also integrates with apps in the Microsoft Office suite.
Google Drive is a great service, but storing confidential information in it still has some risks. So, it’s important to understand the vulnerabilities of using the platform and set up measures to secure your data. Don’t forget that the best safety measure starts with you.