Few people seem to fully understand “the cloud,” yet hundreds of millions of people use it to store their digital ­photos, videos, e-mail and other data in cyberspace. The appeal: You effortlessly create a backup in case your smartphone is lost or your computer crashes…you free up storage space on all your devices…and you can access the data from almost anywhere. However, the recent publication of nude celebrity photos obtained by hackers from Apple’s iCloud put a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of cloud storage. Strategies to safeguard your cloud storage…

Turn off automatic backup. Many cloud services come with a convenient feature that automatically sends every photo and video you create to the cloud. If you don’t want to take a chance of these files being hacked and distributed on the Internet, disable the backup feature. For step-by-step directions, go to the following support pages for the four major cloud providers: For Apple, Apple.com/support…for Google, ­Support.Google.com…for Amazon, Amazon.com/clouddrive…for Dropbox, Dropbox.com/help. (Or go to “Support” for any other cloud service you use.)

Look at your files that already are stored in the cloud—and delete sensitive ones. Deleting these files from your smartphone, tablet and/or computer does not necessarily remove them from your cloud account. Go to your cloud account, and delete such files ­directly there.

Store and back up your most confidential files off-line. Save these items to one or more portable USB flash drives in your home and/or place of business. Then delete the files from your computer’s hard drive so that the data can’t be accessed over the Internet.

Use a stronger password and two-step verification, which requires not just your password to access your accounts but also a special onetime-only code that is sent to your phone each time you log on. For the safest password, see page two. For more on password safety, go to BottomLinePublications.com/password.

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