We’ve heard lots and lots about data breaches in the last decade. And with the term “cloud” becoming more prevalent (which, incidentally, just refers to a computer server connected to the internet), people are asking how secure their data is on the various websites they agree to host it.

For example, online banking, online backup, social media, email and the various free services you may subscribe to are cloud-based and house lots of personal information. But are they secure? The answer is, “It depends.”

For example, BillGuard utilizes bank-level 256-bit AES encryption (the same level of encryption approved by the National Security Agency for storing top-secret data) for all communications and data processing; it also is performed on servers isolated from direct access to the Internet. (That additional level of security is also very important.) BillGuard’s systems are monitored by its own security staff 24/7 and audited daily by VeriSign and McAfee Secure, and a company called Security Art performs regular penetration testing to preemptively ward off data intrusion.

Furthermore, BillGuard does not store your credit/debit card account login credentials or ask for any personally identifiable information beyond an email address (for alerts) and your zip code. Not storing your data is good too.

Chances are, your bank uses the same level of security too. Deciding if you should give up your data depends on the potential risk and return. Do you give your credit card number to a waitress for a burger? You probably shouldn’t, but you do. Do you give your Social Security number to an insurance agent for identification on your policy? We pretty much have to hand over our data for services, and if you want to protect the data, we really should hand it over to companies that are in the business of protecting it—as long as they are responsible with it.

So when deciding to “give it up,” I say you should see what security measures these parties have in place and then decide. I’m sure your waitress has it all covered, anyway.J

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & adviser to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

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