G Suite has revolutionized the way we work for many individuals and organizations. Gone are the days of accidentally saving over an existing file by mistake, losing hours of work because you forgot to save your document, or emailing files back and forwards between colleagues.
Google provides a full suite of tools for word processing, working with spreadsheets, creating websites, and communicating and collaborating with others. All data is saved to the cloud in real-time so you don’t have to worry about losing your work by accident and earlier versions of files are available too.
However, there are some downsides to working in G Suite. Security is always a concern when it comes to cloud applications and it’s certainly worth understanding these potential risks if you decide to make G Suite an integral part of your normal working processes.
1. Unauthorized Access (Data Breach)
Keeping your files in the cloud is highly convenient, as it means you are able to access them from any device, anywhere in the world. This makes working from home after the office is shut as easy as logging in from your home computer.
However this ease of access also means that other unauthorized users could potentially access sensitive data, often without your knowledge.
There are various ways this might happen including:
- Stolen credentials (often via phishing scams in which hackers gain information via a fake website)
- Poor password security (insecure passwords, sharing passwords, writing them down, or telling them to others)
- Malicious hacking attacks
- Gaining access through already logged-in accounts (for example, via a stolen smartphone)
Once an unauthorized person gains access to files in G Suite they could potentially cause all manner of damage by editing or deleting files and gaining access to sensitive information.
The best way to protect G Suite from unauthorized access is to practice good password security and other general online security awareness such as knowing how to recognize a phishing attempt. Organizations should ensure their staff are thoroughly trained in these security essentials.
A third-party monitoring system such as the user behavior audit, which is part of Spinbackup’s cybersecurity service, can also help to discover any suspicious activity as it happens and block potential security threats to prevent a data breach.
2. Data Loss
One of the big advantages of G Suite is that data is saved in real time, so there’s no need to remember to save your files. However it’s a mistake to assume this means that your data is all backed up and safe.
Data loss through user error is actually a common problem with cloud services. The automatic syncing between devices means that if a file is deleted on the local machine, it is also deleted in the cloud. While G Suite offers an option to recover accidentally deleted files, this opportunity is only available for a limited time. After files are removed from the system permanently, there is no way to recover them.
The only way to ensure your data is truly safe in G Suite is to use a 3rd-party cloud-to-cloud backup. This way a backup of your files will remain, even if they are permanently deleted from G Suite and your data can be recovered to an earlier point in history, before the data loss occurred.
Ransomware is rapidly becoming the biggest scourge of working in the digital age, with attacks increasing steadily and affecting everyone from individuals, to schools and hospitals, to large multinational businesses.
Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their files until a ‘ransom’ is paid to the hacker. Almost all ransomware in circulation today is crypto-ransomware, which uses cryptography to scramble data into an unreadable format until it is unlocked with a digital key.
Internet security experts at Symantec reported that ransomware attacks increased by 35% in 2015 and the trend continues to grow. As this type of attack is extremely profitable for hackers (tens of thousands of dollars are paid out regularly by organizations desperate to regain access to their data) it will continue to be a threat to anyone storing files electronically.
Ransomware can affect any device and is not only a threat to those using cloud services. However ransomware is now starting to target cloud services including G Suite, which could be a major problem for any Google user who is a victim of such an attack.
There are various ways to protect yourself from ransomware and other malware including keeping up to date with software updates and patches and educating yourself and staff about suspicious emails. However the only way to recover from a ransomware attack without paying the ransom is by restoring from a previous backup – yet another reason why G Suite backup is essential.
4. Third Party Apps and Google Add-ons
The apps available in G Suite are powerful and free to use, which explains their popularity, but they can also be made even more useful with the help of third-party apps and add-ons.
These are apps and browser plugins that are not developed by Google but that can integrate with the official Google apps and provide extra functionality to improve productivity and collaboration.
Third-party apps can be very useful but they also introduce new security risks into the normal use of G Suite. In order to function, the apps request various permissions to your Google account, which may include the ability to edit or delete data, send emails on your behalf and other potentially risky actions.
While in the majority of cases, apps are not malicious, the potential exists for hackers to exploit a loophole in insecure code and gain access to your data stored in G Suite via the app. There are also many fake apps around which can be downloaded from third-party app stores and these frequently contain malware.
Every app that you grant access to your Google account introduces an increased security risk. However this does not mean that third-party apps should be avoided entirely. Reputable apps from established companies are almost guaranteed to be safe, as long as they are downloaded from the official Google app store.
Organizations may have more trouble ensuring that apps are genuine due to the number of employees installing them on their own devices. In this case, it is a wise investment to use a G Suite cybersecurity service that provides a third-party app audit. This will enable to to easily identify risky apps and revoke their permissions if necessary.
5. Sharing Permissions
G Suite is designed to make sharing and collaboration between many different users easy, however this puts the responsibility on the user or administrator to ensure that only appropriate files are shared with appropriate people.
It is easy to accidentally grant access to a file to the wrong user, or even maliciously for employees to share data with people outside the company if the correct access controls are not put in place.
Permissions can be confusing for many users and it’s also common for files to be shared with users with more permissions than are necessary. For example, granting the permission to edit and delete data rather than read-only.
There are a couple of ways you can help to avoid the security issues that may occur from incorrect sharing permissions with other Google users.
The first is to ensure an automatic backup of all G Suite data is in place. This way, if another user deletes your files, they are easily recoverable.
Secondly, for organizations with many users, the Spinbackup user behavior audit can be used to detect unauthorized sharing with users outside the company that may pose a security risk.
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