As humanity becomes ever more reliant on digital media, it is increasingly important for us to find ways to protect our data. There is no doubt that digital media offers many conveniences and saves people a great deal of time, but it does come at a cost.
Nothing in this world is permanent, but the currently available consumer technology people use for digital storage is even less permanent than those used in ancient times. The expression “set in stone” still carries weight because a story carved into a rock will last longer than one saved on a hard drive.
Until that changes, you need to take steps to make secure backups of your digital media and lock it away from unwelcome eyes. The following eight methods should help.
Backup your digital media
1. Removable media – external hard drives, flash drives, CDs and DVDs
The technology for hard drives is not very sophisticated, and it would be foolish for you to think your data is in no danger of being lost in a crash or eventually fading away with age and wear. Therefore, one solution is to backup your data on removable media. External hard drives are extremely cheap compared to other forms of digital storage devices. In fact you can buy a [easyazon-link asin=”B002QEBMCI”]2 terabyte external hard drive[/easyazon-link] for under $100.
2. Cloud storage and syncing – Dropbox, SpiderOak, etc
I cannot recommend cloud storage for highly sensitive data, as I have no way of verifying that any particular service is secure. Nevertheless, for all other data, the cloud is a great secondary backup solution. Previously we have listed 5 backup storage options which include cloud storage.
3. Second computers, hard drives, and home servers
Many people have more than one computer or even home media servers. It does not hurt to have your digital data (especially photos) stored on more than one device. If one of them should crash, you always have the other. Trying to recover deleted files and photos is a stressful task that can be avoided.
Security for your digital media
The other aspect of data protection that needs attention is security. Even if you have backups of your data, you do not want others to have it as well, and you certainly do not want an external force to damage it.
This is the most basic security system that every house should have in place. Most modern routers have network firewalls to prevent intrusion. You should also have a software firewall installed on your computer.
5. Secure passwords
Many security problems in homes and businesses are the result of bad user habits, such as weak passwords. It is not difficult to create a good password, but too many people rely on easily-guessed passwords for the sake of convenience. Instead, take the time to create complex passwords and memorize them. This will make it much more difficult for attackers or attacking software to guess them. Protecting your online accounts is also a necessary in the fight against hackers.
6. Malware detection
Although virus protection is still very important, it is only one form of malware. There are many forms of malicious code out there that can do damage to your computer or simply steal information. You need complete malware protection for any device that connects to the Internet. Many modern web browsers, like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome include basic malware list checking to warn you whenever you are about to visit a website that contains it. Protecting your computer is a full time job.
7. Social media discretion
Often times the sensitive information that gets exposed was actually given freely by the victim. Too often we share our digital data to people we think we can trust, only to have that information spread far and wide. In other words, if you post a picture of yourself at that bar in Mexico on Facebook, any one of your friends could post it on a blog or gossip site.
Of all the items on this list, this one is probably the most effective yet overlooked solution. For the most sensitive data, encryption is the best way to keep it from prying eyes. For encryption to work, you need to use it at every point of access. According to UK server hosting specialists at 34SP.com, you can encrypt your local files with free software such as Truecrypt. For file transfer, you should use a secured method such as SFTP or SCP. For web browsing on banking sites or other sites with private data, make sure the sites use SSL (HTTPS in your address bar with a verified security certificate).
Many of us do not stop to consider just how much of our personal and important data we trust to digital storage: photos, music, writing, financial documents, and even home videos. For that reason, having backups and decent security helps ensure we do not lose those sensitive materials and precious memories.
Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer and long-time Linux system administrator with several years of experience in web hosting and server security.