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Security & privacy

3 reasons storing sensitive files in Google Drive is a bad idea

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Google Drive is a jack of all trades: You can share documents, convert files and collaborate with others. Tap or click here for 15 Google Drive tricks you’ll use all the time. Just be careful since a few Google Drive security risks could throw a wrench in your workflow.

For example, hackers are creative in hiding malware in Google Drive files. They know that Google scans for viruses in smaller files, but it doesn’t always have the resources to check larger files thoroughly. Thus, it’s easy for hackers to lure you in with a file that looks innocent but contains malware.

Quit falling for digital Trojan horses. Train your eye to recognize these Google Drive security risks. In this guide, you’ll get a few cyber defense tips that help you stay safe.

1. Phishing attempts are rampant

Ask most people, “Is Google Drive safe and secure?” They’ll probably say yes. After all, Google has a strong cybersecurity team and an excellent reputation. In reality, no amount of cybersecurity buffs can negate the possibility of human error.

That’s why scammers rely on psychological tricks like spear phishing. They’ll impersonate your coworkers and send emails with links to malicious documents, security researchers at Varonis report. Be careful, though: Look at their email address before clicking on an email from a teammate.

Scammers often steal an employee’s profile picture. They’ll add it to their accounts to make you think you’re talking to a coworker. But the address will be different, so do your due diligence and confirm that the link comes from someone inside the company.

Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide to recognizing Google Drive phishing scams.

2. Nasty links in Google Docs are one of the most significant Google Drive security risks

Earlier this year, hackers turned the comment feature in Google Docs from a convenience into a nightmare. If you didn’t know, users can share documents and leave comments to communicate their thoughts. Here’s an example of a comment:

As you can tell, I highlighted some text in Google Docs and left a comment with a link. While this feature is handy for teammates, there’s a downside. It’s also useful for hackers who break into an organization’s Google Drive.

Employees have their guard down when they’re working on team documents. According to Avanan, a “massive wave of hackers” used the comment feature to insert malicious links.

Double-check the person dropping the note before clicking on links in a document’s comment section. They may be from outside your organization!

RELATED: Need to liven up those Google Docs? How to find and use free templates

3. It’s been hacked before

Take a minute and think about all the sensitive information on your Google Drive. Maybe you keep bank account details, receipts, invoices and ID cards in Google Drive.

A hacker breaking into your account would be like a kid in a candy store. They could make a ton of cash with all this private data.

Plus, hackers have a history of hunting down Google’s vulnerabilities. In 2010, Google detailed a Chinese hacking attempt. They targeted 34 companies, from Yahoo to Adobe.

That’s not all. Hackers leaked almost 5 million Gmail passwords in 2014, CNN reports. To make matters worse, Google once exposed user data itself. That’s right. According to NPR, Google accidentally exposed over 52.5 million people’s user data. It all came down to a bug in the Google+ API.

BONUS: Be careful of Excel spreadsheets, too

In 2021, a cybersecurity firm blew the whistle on a scam that peddled malware through Excel spreadsheets. According to Morphisec, criminals plant Remote Access Trojans (RATs) into Excel spreadsheets. Then, they send the Excel files to unsuspecting people through email.

Once a victim clicks a malicious email attachment, the RAT inside the file scuttles to work. Excel loads and executes the malicious code, which causes chaos from afar. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid this scam: Don’t open files from unknown emails.

Cut out Google Drive security risks. Use this instead

Sure, Google Drive is a convenient and free way to store your files. But it collects a massive amount of data on you. Switch away from Google Drive and pick a secure and private cloud storage option.

Kim recommends our sponsor, IDrive. This company protects you from ransomware. Defend your data with IDrive to set up a strategy if a hacker attacks your computer. The worst thing you can do is leave your files unprotected.

Staying safe is easy. You just need to back up your data ahead of time so hackers have no power over you if they break into your computer to hold your files hostage. Kim believes there’s no better way to protect your files from ransomware.

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