‘B’ is for backup. It has your back when Plan A is defective or breaks down. No technology device will last forever. So what is your plan now that ransomware is growing? Here’s our primer on how to develop a complete backup plan.
First, think plural, not singular. It’s smart to have more than one. The first backup can be local—an external hard drive that you connect weekly or leave connected or a Wi-Fi enabled drive that can backup continuously if you’re the forgetful type.
Before you start that process, let’s back up a minute. ID Watchdog’s CIO, Craig Ramsay, suggests starting the process before you even determine the first backup for your priceless photos and other files.
“Create two accounts on your computer—an administrator account and an end user account,” he said. “The end user account is unprivileged meaning it does not have the ability to install programs or write to system folders. Use the unprivileged account except when you need to install a new program.”
Your exposure to viruses will be reduced but won’t be completely eliminated. Ramsay’s system will also make it harder for hackers to access your admin account to disable anti-virus.
Then set your anti-virus (you too, Mac users) to auto update. Keep your operating system updated, too. Turn on auto updates so they occur automatically.
Remember, not all malware spreads via files with an .exe extension. Word documents and Excel files can contain malicious micros, too. Put a sticky note on your display that reads, “I promise not to open emails or attachments from unknown users.”
Now back to the backup plan. While ransomware is perhaps your #1 risk, a hard drive crash or file corruption can also threaten your files.
Ramsay suggests, “This gets tricky as today’s backups are designed to be user-friendly and seamless and a lot of ransomware is designed to go after the backups too as they are a connected drive.”
He believes everyone needs two systems—one that backs up your system and a second to copy your backup. The second backup is not attached to your computer so if you get infected with ransomware, the second backup is still clean because the virus has no attack path.
There are several options for the second step. If you opt for cloud backup, you want a service that does not map your computer’s drive. The second choice is a drive you connect once a week to back up the computer then disconnect. If it’s not regularly connected to your gear, ransomware won’t seek it out.
Automated backups are great because you don’t need to remember to do them. If you use Apple’s Time Capsule, you’ll get multiple versions of your files so you can go back in time to recover a lost or corrupted file. For PC or Mac files, check out cloud services like BackBlaze or Carbonite. Ask if the service keeps multiple copies of a document as you change it. This is called versioning or revising. Ask if the company’s network will be perpetually or only periodically connected to your system. The latter can prevent an older version of your files from becoming locked by ransomware. Choose a service that encrypts your files to guard against a possible data breach.
Still not convinced? We urge you to study the case of Mat Horan, a former data security writer for WIRED. In 2012, Horan experienced what he called an ‘epic’ hack. His story about the need for backup should be enough to convince even the most jaded skeptic.