Many of us may make the mistake of believing that just because we lock our doors, or keep an eye on our laptops while we’re out in public, our possessions are safe.
However, the work we do on our computers represents a very real asset and is susceptible to all kinds of harm, not limited to theft but also loss, damage and accidental erasure. It is thus vitally important that you back up all your important computer files onto a secure second location.
Here are just a few pointers for when you decide it’s time to stop being complacent and start taking responsibility for your digital property:
1. Back your files up, away from your main computer.
As mentioned above, many things can happen to your computer, tablet, or phone. You could drop it into the toilet, as I once did with my iPhone 3GS.
You can be half-asleep and knock it onto the floor, permanently damaging the screen and thus limiting your ability to access information on your computer, as I did with my 2004 iBook. Or you can just leave it on a park bench, as…okay, I never did that one.
These days, digital storage is so cheap there’s no excuse not to buy an external USB hard drive. On the other hand, it’s also now possible to back your files up online to “the cloud” with such free services as Google Drive and Dropbox.
Whichever you choose, make sure you frequently update it, so that if anything goes wrong, you lose as little work as possible.
2. Password-protect your data.
People often misuse passwords. For one thing, you need to make sure you don’t use the exact same password for every purpose. If you do, then if only one of the services you use is hacked, or your password is compromised in some other way, then all of your passwords will be available for thieves to guess and manipulate.
A “strong” password is usually considered to be one that does not use an ordinary word, but rather a random combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, with both upper and lowercase letters included.
You should especially avoid using personal information like birthdates, names of relatives and pets, or obvious phrases like “password” or “12345.” Keep a paper record of your passwords in a secure physical location.
3. Consider encryption.
Encryption software is available that will help you encipher your files and folders so that even if a nefarious person finds them, he or she cannot open or use them. Once the file is encrypted, you will have to use a password to access it. The usual precautions about passwords should be taken, as described above.
Take these common-sense steps and your precious electronic assets will be safe from those who would steal or misuse them, as well as (possibly more likely) from your own mistakes. It may seem like a nuisance, but trust me, it’s far easier to do this now than to deal with the potential consequences at a later time.
About the Author: Silvia Brooks is an avid freelance writer and blogger who writes primarily for consumer-oriented sites such as homesecurity.org. Silvia welcomes any questions, thoughts, or suggestions you may have!