When it comes to storing files over the cloud, people have some serious concerns about their data. Cloud storage services have been competing to deliver users the latest and most secure encryption techniques to address these concerns. The two most common names in this sector are Dropbox and Google Drive. Even though they offer similar services, both of these platforms are quite different from each other. Dropbox is commonly used as a desktop program, whereas Drive boasts seamless linking and connectivity with the entire Google Workspace.
In the following article, we will take an in-depth look at one of the most important factors in any cloud-based program; encryption. The key to protecting user data has up-to-the-minute encryption methods that cannot be cracked easily. These methods play a crucial role not only when files are stored over the cloud but also when they are being shared from one account to another. Due to these seemingly obvious reasons, everyone is recommended to choose their online storage platform after closely examining its security protocols. Are you a new ChromeOS user? Learn how to disable Chrome web security flags on Chromebook.
What is encryption? How does it work?
Encryption is the most widely used method for protecting any file, document, message, or particular chunk of data. Through encryption, the underlying data gets concealed from everyone except the person or account which holds the encryption key. Any encryption algorithm goes through a series of complex steps, which renders the data inaccessible to unauthorized personnel. Once any file gets encrypted, it can only be decrypted using the original key.
After you upload any file to the cloud, it gets encrypted according to that service’s protocols and algorithms. After that, it can be accessed only through your account and anywhere else. Like other computer programs, encryption methods vary in strength and level of security. There are several different key lengths and encryption systems in use these days. All of that results in the general robustness of any technique. For cloud-based storage services, encryption standards are dictated by their beta evaluators and regular users. Both Google Drive and Dropbox have remodeled their encryption algorithms multiple times. We need to consider the most recent updates to evaluate their current standards.
Before we start such an assessment, brief know-how of various encryption algorithms is a must. As described earlier, there are several algorithms in use. Some allow for efficient data transfer, while others excel in crucial strength. In 1977, the US government set forth a Data Encryption Standard (DES), which decreased the hardware cost and ensured better protection. With quick advancements, security experts came up with Triple DES and RSA. With increasingly sensitive data uploaded on the internet, everyone kept looking for better algorithms.
By 2002, every major software shifted to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). This standard promised ideal privacy control and became a massive barrier to increasing cybercrime. Soon after, institutions and regulatory bodies rolled out mandates for AES to be adapted worldwide. Both Google Drive and Dropbox employ AES with varying bit levels.
Existing security requirements
Undoubtedly, cloud storage services revolutionized how we generally store and share files, documents, or information. Google Drive and Dropbox offer tons of unique features deserving a lot of praise. That said, one cannot say that online storage is free of security vulnerabilities. Therefore, there are some risks associated with using these services. This is why many people still prefer to use local hands-on devices.
Google Drive and Dropbox enjoy a vast user base. Combined, they have hundreds of millions of daily active users. With these platforms managing such substantial data streams, they become a primary target for hackers, spammers, and malicious personnel. These individuals try to break into their servers and leak any personally identifiable information. Since people usually do not log out of these storage services, their data remains on the online server for several weeks or months. All this data must be protected while keeping it easily approachable for the original user.
This is where encryption comes in. Google Drive and Dropbox employ encryption algorithms on stored and shared files. Whether a document lies on your account or is being shared with an entire team, it will be encrypted with one or another encryption standard. These methods guard against a sea of scams, hacks, and whatnot. The type of fraud carried out on cloud storage platforms is just limitless. We can go on to list phishing links, clone websites, and hidden malware.
Fortunately, we now have encryption standards to keep all of this at arm’s length. It is not wrong to state that without such algorithms, it would not have been possible for Google Drive and Dropbox to exist in the first place. The following two sections comprehensively describe how these programs use encryption to keep your data safe. Also, do keep in mind that any company handling big data might change its existing protocols in the future. We cannot predict the upcoming security challenges and their solutions with more data generated daily. Are you overwhelmed by different passwords for different accounts? Learn how to use Google Chrome password manager effectively.
For keeping the user data safe, Dropbox relies on multiple layers of advanced encryption algorithms. These layers are distributed across a scalable and secure infrastructure. Dropbox files just stored on the server are encrypted using 256-bit AES. Regarding files in transit between Dropbox applications and servers, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are utilized. SSL and TLS create a secure tunnel protected by 128-bit or higher AES encryption.
Apart from basic layers, Dropbox applications and servers are regularly tested for security vulnerabilities. They are also hardened over time to enhance security and protect against potential attacks. Besides, two-step verification is available for an extra layer of security at the login stage. If you keep it enabled, there is a choice to receive security codes by text message or from an authenticator app. Even with high-end encryption algorithms active at all times, Dropbox users can access their files and folders at any time through desktop, web, or mobile.
All Dropbox clients are connected to encrypted servers to provide secure access, allow sharing with others, and synchronize linked devices when files are modified. These various services are responsible for handling and processing both metadata and raw block storage. It is important to note that Dropbox does not provide client-side encryption. It also does not recommend creating any private keys on your own. Still, many third-party applications offer encryption at both file and container levels. The protection of personal data must be your utmost priority, and you are free to make use of any such software that delivers end-to-end encryption.
Google Drive encryption
Now, let us come on to the encryption in Google Drive. All files uploaded to Drive or created in Docs are secured in transit and at rest with AES 256-bit encryption. For additional confidentiality, your organization can allow you to encrypt Google Drive files with Workspace client-side encryption. These files have some additional limitations compared to the standard files on Google Drive. You can also upload any Google Drive file as an encrypted document to other cloud storage.
On an encrypted file, any user shared on the file can access it using an encryption key unique to that document. Usually, Google does this for you, but with client-side encryption, your domain chooses to add an extra layer of protection. Moreover, your domain administrator controls which groups and individuals can use encryption. You will have to contact the admin if you want to move files to locations with this feature turned on. Version history for encrypted Google Drive files retains up to 100 versions. After you exceed this set limit, less significant versions are removed automatically. Also, there is no limit on the maximum size for such files.
Your Google account has built-in security to detect and block threats like spam, phishing, and malware. Such protections are only possible because of robust industry standards and quality practices. One crucial thing to note is that Google cannot decrypt any of your files. However, applications on your computer with sufficient permissions granted, such as Chrome extensions, may be able to view and exfiltrate encrypted files. Do not forget that encryption does not protect your files from someone who can view your screen.
Since cloud storage became mainstream, it has only grown in popularity and demand. With more users comes more responsibility over these storage services to protect their users’ valuable data. Google Drive and Dropbox can scale their operations through advanced encryption standards while keeping your at-rest and in-transit files entirely safeguarded. Are you considering moving over to some other cloud storage? A detailed comparison between One Drive and Google Drive might be helpful.