4 Ways to Protect your Data from Mayhem

by Angelique on August 13, 2012

The Internet is full of advice about protecting your data from hackers. This is not such a post. While hackers use your data to steal from you, they rarely destroy it. This post is about protecting the things you write and save from malfunctioning applications, defective services and your own silly mistakes.

1. Protect blog posts and comments from vanishing.

Graphic by Angelique of AFMarCom of a blog comment that is being copied in case the comment is lost during the sending process

 

Let’s start with malfunctioning applications. Last week Pavel Konoplenko was trying to leave a comment on my blog post about Twitter spammers. He spent a long time writing a thoughtful post, and when he hit “submit,” it disappeared!

What application failed? Disqus? WordPress? His browser? His Internet service provider’s software? Fortunately it didn’t matter, because Pavel was smart enough to copy his comment to his clipboard before hitting “submit.” Another action he could have taken was to copy the comment into a text file. I do this all the time.

P.S. I also do this for blog posts. I had to do it for this blog post when I suspected that my Internet connection went down! (I was right!)

 

2. Do not wirelessly auto-sync all your devices.

screenshot of conversation between Angelique or AFMarCom and Ironhelix of ADVAutomedia about the dangers of automatically wirelessly synchronizing data

 

Above is an actual Twitter conversation I had with @ironhelix, who creates mobile marketing applications. He starts by noting that the largest providers of “cloud storage” are only interested in protecting your data from theft. They don’t take any steps to protect you from accidents.

Then I note that auto-syncing causes data-loss accidents, and Ironhelix, who is very careful with his data, says that this has nonetheless happened to him. He’s now disabled most auto-synch features.

Finally, Iron Helix notes that he backs up his data on an external hard drive, which brings us to my next point:

 

3. Back up to something you can hold in your hand AND to something you can access from far away.

spiral-bound password reminder book sold by uncommon goods

Okay, you don’t have to make hard copy of your data! Although…. this is actually a good idea for passwords and account numbers, provided you remember to lock your hard copy away in case someone breaks into your house, or you make the acquaintance of a snoop. (By the way, I have no connection to the people who are selling this adorable spiral-bound password keeper. I just thought it was cute.)

My actual point is that external hard-drive backups are great because no matter what happens to your computer (hacker, virus, hard-drive crash, auto-sync disaster) your data is preserved. However, hard drives can be damaged by fire and they can be stolen, so it’s also good to send your data to a secure server, where you can access it in case of an emergency. You may need a super-secure, totally encrypted backup service, or you may just need to use a service like Google Docs.

 

4. Make sure you have all the user names and passwords for your website.

Remember the first graphic on this page? (If not, it’s not too far to scroll up!) it refers to a very important article by MaAnna of Blog Aid entitled Protect Your Site Copyright and Domain. Read her article to be sure that you are the actual owner of your website, and listen to me about the following:

Be sure you have all of the following information about your website. Even if you have the best webmaster in the world, things can change. What if something happens to your webmaster? You’ll need access to your website.

 

BIg Red Question Mark Circle - original graphic by angelique of afmarcomWhat is the username and password to log into the server where your website lives?

 

BIg Red Question Mark Circle - original graphic by angelique of afmarcomWhom are you paying to host your website? If your webmaster isn’t the host, who is, and how do you access that account?

 

BIg Red Question Mark Circle - original graphic by angelique of afmarcomIf your site uses the WordPress platform, what is the username and password for that account?

 

BIg Red Question Mark Circle - original graphic by angelique of afmarcomThrough whom is your domain registered? How can you access that account? Do you even own your own domain?

 

How do you prevent accidental data loss? Have you ever suffered a catastrophic loss? What happened? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Horvath August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I’ve got a couple of ways that I use to address some of the problems you’re talking about.

First, I use LastPass (see https://lastpass.com), which is a password management tool. It allows the user to have a single password (or for those of us who are paranoid, two-factor authentication) that provides access to the rest of her passwords. It also provides some nice features, such as automatically filling in form fields according to profile data, or automatically logging the user into selected sites. I also use it to randomly generate new passwords for every Web account I create, which not only makes them effectively impossible to attack via brute force, it also prevents me from having issues related to using the same password across sites. There are LastPass apps for iOS and Android devices as well, which allows me to use my password database from mobile devices.

I use Lazarus (see http://getlazarus.com) to avoid losing data that I’ve entered into forms. It’s a browser plugin that remembers everything you’ve typed into Web-based forms, and makes that information available within the form itself if you ever accidentally lose it. If you use Lazarus, you should turn on the password feature (and use a strong password!) to preclude giving someone with access to your computer the opportunity to dig around in your form data.

I like your point about turning off auto-syncing on at least one device to preserve your data! I hadn’t thought of that one, and though I haven’t had any issues along those lines, I could see how that could happen very easily. See e.g. http://www.emptyage.com/post/28679875595/yes-i-was-hacked-hard

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Angelique August 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Thanks for the great suggestions, Bill! As you can see, I’ve switched to LiveFyre. As you also can see, it’s squished up your blog post into one large block of text. I’m not going to fix it until their tech support can look at it. But at least you show up!

Now…. let’s see how it looks when I post! For the record: There are two paragraphs here!

UPDATE: LiveFyre hid MY comment, and they haven’t written back to me, so I disabled them for now.

Reply

Casey E. Palmer August 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

I echo Bill’s sentiments on LastPass — it’s a genius tool that makes things far easier to me. Never checked out Lazarus, but I look forward to trying it out :)

I try to keep multiple copies of important data — my most precious stuff (photos and drawings) is saved in multiple places JUST in case.

This is a much-needed post! Thanks, Angel!

Reply

Angelique August 14, 2012 at 9:43 am

Casey — Thanks! Glad you think it’s useful!

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