Here at Cloudwards.net we want to make sure that everyone is safe and sound when they browse the Internet or use cloud services for storage and backup. To help our readers, we’ve made a list of the best zero-knowledge cloud services around.
Zero-knowledge, in short, means that your passwords are not saved anywhere, not even on the servers of the provider you use. Though this may not seem all that important at first glance, it’s a great way to protect yourself from cybercrime as well as governmental snooping.
Ever since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States government has stepped up its security and surveillance programs. These programs collect data wherever they can, even from people not linked to terrorism or other criminal acts. Many EU countries are jumping onto the surveillance bandwagon as well, making it more important than ever before to keep data safe.
One U.S. program, called PRISM, captures the private data of people all over the world and analyzes it, often with cooperation from companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and others. When this information came public thanks to Edward Snowden, many companies started offering increased security.
Besides governments, hackers and other criminals are always seeking to crack people’s online storage so they can sell the data and make some quick money. There have been many incidents in the past where confidential data has been stolen and sold on the black market.
Given this situation, one good way to protect your data is to use the services of a zero-knowledge cloud provider that can keep your data safe.
$ 4.08 per month 500 GBStorage All Plans
|Visit Sync.comSync.com Review|
$ 4.99 per month 500 GBStorage All Plans
|Visit pCloudpCloud Review|
$ 5.00 per month 100 GBStorage All Plans
|Visit SpiderOak ONESpiderOak ONE Review|
$ 5.94 per month 200 GBStorage All Plans
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What Are Zero-knowledge Cloud Services?
With zero-knowledge cloud services, all information is encrypted in such a way that no one else but you can access it. Though you’ll have to remember all your passwords, you can rest assured that no one else has the keys to access your data, including the employees of the service you use.
In fact, these cloud providers don’t store any of your information, not even your login credentials, so they won’t be able to provide any data to the governmental agencies. Even hackers won’t be able to access your data because they can’t find the keys to decrypt them.
Remember, zero-knowledge cloud services are different from file encryption service providers, as the latter will only encrypt your files, but will offer no other protection. In fact, they’ll save your login information, so you don’t have to enter your credentials each time. Such providers are not zero-knowledge providers. Only those that don’t store any information about you whatsoever fall in this category.
Let’s take a look at what we think are the five best zero-knowledge cloud services.
Sync.com is one of the few cloud storage services designed with users’ privacy in mind. It’s zero-knowledge platform provides complete encryption, and only you have the keys to unlock your files. Below you’ll find a video review of this great service.
A cool aspect of Sync.com is it comes with automatic backup and sync across many devices. This means, you can upload files from your desktop, smartphone and tab to the same account, and it’ll all be secure in one place.
You can even keep them synchronized across different devices, so there are multiple copies of the same files, in case of any unfortunate loss. Also, Sync.com stores the past versions of files, and you can retrieve them at any time.
These features protect your data from computer crashes and device losses, as you can always recover the files deleted from your local machine.
Even while sharing, you get to stay on top of security and privacy. While you can share files with anyone, even if they don’t have a Sync.com account, you can set permissions on who can access your files, with “read-only” or “read-write” options.
If you’re still concerned about your privacy, you have the choice to set expiry dates, so users can’t access that file after your specified date. At any time, you can view download stats or set download limits for your files and you can revoke access at any time if you detect any suspicious behavior.
Sync.com protects your files in the best way possible. It uses 2048-bit RSA, 235-bit AES, SSL and TLS security protocols that are virtually uncrackable. Two-factor authentication and account notifications give you instant information about log-ins, views and shares, and if you suspect any untoward behavior, you also have the option to remotely delete data from any device.
You can also go through file audit logs to know who has accessed your files, when and from where. All these features make your files truly secure.
Lastly, Sync.com takes care of your compliance needs, especially if you operate in a regulated sector like healthcare. It’s stringent data protection and privacy policies make your system compliant with HIPAA (if you’re in the US), and PIPEDA, PIPA, FIPPA and PHIPA (if you’re in Canada).
Since this company is 100 percent Canadian, it’s not subject to the U.S. Patriot Act, so the NSA can’t view your files without your knowledge. In fact, all the data is stored in Canadian data centers, where the NSA has no jurisdiction.
SpiderOak (the latest version is called SpiderOakONE) is one of the most secure and privacy-focused cloud provider today, thanks to the strong features that come with it. We’ve made a short video review that recaps its most important features.
SpiderOak provides solid security for your data, whether you want to sync, share or do a backup. Since it follows a zero-knowledge policy, none of its employees can access your data without you knowing it.
Sharing is also completely under your control as you can choose to share your content in two ways. The first way is by creating something called ShareRooms to securely share any data you want.
When you use ShareRooms, SpiderOak creates a folder and allows others to download this folder and its contents to their local system. The best part is these shares are read-only, so your content is safe. You can create as many ShareRooms as you like, and the recipients don’t need a SpiderOak account to access them.
Though ShareRooms work best for sharing large amounts of files, it can be a little cumbersome when sharing a single file. This is why you have the “single file sharing” feature, where you simply share the link to a particular file. Again, recipients don’t need SpiderOak accounts, and for privacy’s sake, this link will expire after three days.
SpiderOak protects your data during backup, too, as it stores encrypted copies of your files in the cloud, so you can access them even if something ever happens to your local files. In fact, you can use SpiderOak to restore your data, if needed.There are no restrictions on the type and size of file you can back up, and there are some neat customization options as well.
In addition, SpiderOak can store past versions of your files without taking too much space, so you can always go back and check what you want. The best part is this service doesn’t re-upload an entire file when you make changes, rather, it scans the files and uploads only the new data — and this good for both your bandwidth and security.
Lastly, its file syncing feature allows you to decide what data you want to sync among your devices. You can also access it from any device, as SpiderOak works well across most platforms.
The bottom line is that SpiderOak offers a strong feature set, along with a rock-solid privacy and security. However, it is expensive and can slow your system, especially if you want to backup several gigabytes of data.
pCloud is similar to Dropbox in that it provides cloud storage, but comes with extra features and privacy controls for better data protection. Founded in 2013 in Switzerland, this service already has more than six million users, thanks to its generous pricing and secure features. Check out our video review below.
pCloud offers secure syncing, sharing and backup. It offers a client-encryption feature called Crypto that encrypts files on your local system and uploads only the encrypted version to the server. This way, no one can access sensitive information from your local machine or the cloud. Though it costs an additional $3.99 a month, it is well worth the cost.
When it comes to syncing, each folder on pCloud can have its own sync options, with your choices being two-way sync, upload-only and download-only. For example, you can have your documents folder to be a two-way sync and your pictures folder to be an upload-only sync, it’s completely up to you. This allows you to control the level of access for third parties.
pCloud extends security to backup data too, as it allows you to see previous versions of your files for a period of 180 days, which is much more than the 30 days offered by most other providers.
Another unique feature of pCloud is that it allows you to backup other online services. For example, you can link your Dropbox, Picasa and Facebook accounts, so all files are automatically copied to pCloud once every three days (by default). You can obviously choose to do this backup more frequently.
Sharing is also secure on pCloud. You can share your files in three ways — invite others to access a folder, allow users to only upload or download files to a folder. The second and third options don’t need a pCloud account, but your contacts need an account to view files.
In addition, pCloud offers a great feature called LAN sync through which you can transfer files directly between devices located on the same LAN. This option not only bypasses the cloud and increases the transfer speed, but is also be more secure as it doesn’t have to go through the Internet.
A clean user interface, inexpensive pricing plans, speed throttling feature to save on bandwidth and cross-platform support are other compelling reasons to choose pCloud.
Tresorit is another great choice for zero-knowledge security as it provides maximum protection for your data. It even ensures that your files are safe during uploads, thanks to its client-side encryption. This way, your files are secured with the highest grade encryption, even when they are on your local machine.
No unauthorized user, including Tresorit’s employees, can decrypt your file or read through its contents at any time, as you hold the keys to decrypt the data.
At the same time, file syncing and sharing is easy too. You can create private and encrypted folders called “Tresor” to sync and share your data, and you have the choice to create as many tresors as you want. Once you’ve created tresors, you can share them safely too as they’re already encrypted.
While sharing, you’ll have to send your encrypted key to the recipient, and this can be a bit annoying, especially if you’re sharing your files for the first time with a new partner or client.
To avoid this, Tresorit uses a complex method of verifying the identity of recipients using something called ICE protocol. This way, you’ll know who’s requesting access, and if you’re not sure, you can always revoke the access.
Sometimes, revoking access alone may not be sufficient to protect your data. This is why Tresorit re-encrypts files with revoked access, so the recipient needs a new key to open the file again.
In addition, Tresorit uses Transport Layer Security (TLS), the successor to SSL for sending your files over the Internet. This means, your data has two levels of protection — the first with client-side encryption and the second with TLS. This feature makes your data extra secure, and greatly reduces even remote chances for hacking.
In all, a multi-pronged security strategy makes Tresorit the perfect choice for those who want to have complete control over their data.
Mega is another zero-knowledge provider that scores high on security. It uses AES encryption protocols to encrypt files even before they are moved from your local machine to the cloud, and this encryption remains both during transit and at rest. This means that no one can hack your files, as you alone have the master codes for decryption.
We’ve made a video explaining how Mega stands out against its competition, check it out below.
On top of that, you can decide whom to grant or deny access to your files right from your web browser, without installing any custom software. That can be a convenient feature, especially for novices.
That Mega is serious about security is evident right from the time you sign in. During the initial setup, you’ll be prompted to create a password, and if it’s too weak, Mega will not allow you to even create the account.
Of course, the downside is that if you forget the password, the system can’t retrieve it for you. The only way to reset your password is by using your master key. During the reset, Mega will generate a random set of numbers and letters, but won’t store it in any of their systems.
If you forget your master key, there’s no way to recover your files, so make sure you remember it or use a password tool like LastPass.
Once you have an account, you’ll notice Mega’s security in each and every action: when sharing files, you can share it only with another Mega Limited user, and no outside links are allowed for collaboration.
While this may seem like a drawback, it makes perfect sense from a security perspective. If sharing with non-Mega users is necessary, you will have to ask the support team to do so. If you want to send outside links, your key will be sent along with the file for others to view your files.
Besides these security features, Mega offers 50GB of storage space for free. Mega works well across different platforms, and you also get to control upload speeds.
Overall, Mega is an affordable cloud service that comes with free storage space of 50GB and an end-to-end encryption to protect your files.
Zero-knowledge cloud service providers are the future as they protect your data from hackers as well as governments that want to have greater control over the activities of their residents.
No one can view your files even if they want to because you’re the only one with the secret keys to decrypt your files. However, remember that your master key is precious, and you can’t afford to lose it or share it with anyone else.
With so many cloud providers out there, the zero-knowledge providers we’ve discussed in this piece are clearly the best because they not only have a heavy focus on privacy and security in all actions, but also come with clean interfaces and affordable pricing.
Which of these do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.