Data Protection

Posted Wednesday, September 22 2010 by jonathan

The topic of protecting data on computers comes up repeatedly in the news and has come up for us personally twice in the last month. There are two needs to address:

  1. Prevent people from accessing your confidential data, and
  2. Go on with life in the event your computer is lost, stolen, or run over by a truck.

I'm going to preface these recommendations with the fact that they will inevitably make your life a tiny bit more annoying, and they will cost you some money. If you care about keeping prying eyes away from your tax returns or customer list and you would feel the pain of no longer having them then this is just some insurance.

Without further ado, three steps to data happiness.

  1. Setup a DropBox account. Get it running on every computer you use. Put all of your important files in the DropBox folder on your computer(s).*
  2. Buy an external hard drive, a big one. If you're using Macs turn on Time Machine. If you're using Windows find a backup system that works for you. I've used SyncToy from Microsoft and Comodo Backup. Both are free and work well.
  3. Buy PGP Whole Disk Encryption and use it on every computer you use and your backup drives. Use a long pass phrase. Memorize it (you'll need to type it in every time you turn on your computer) and put it in a safe deposit box.

Now, put the backup drive in a safe deposit box at the bank. Get it out once a week, or once a month, or whatever you can live with. (Remember, whatever is in DropBox will be backed up almost immediately if your computer is connected to the internet.)

Plug it into each computer and run a backup. While you're in the room. When it's done bring the drive right back to the bank and put it back.

* DropBox is awesome, but remember that whatever you put there is exposed to various threats outside your control. You need to use a very strong password, you need to trust the DropBox security staff to not let hackers in, and you need to realize that they have very little reason to fight a warrant ordering them to hand a copy of your data over to the authorities. Don't put anything in DropBox you wouldn't want the government to have.

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