Data is everything. It's every photo you've taken since 1995. It's every email you've ever sent or received. It's access to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, bank accounts, Google Drives, and everything in between. Data is the sum of your digital parts.
So what happens if someone gets access to your data by, say, stealing your laptop? Or maybe you're clumsy and drop a hard drive. Or get hacked. Whatever the situation, your data is fast and loose; gigabytes can be copied in a matter of minutes. But I'm sure you already have some level of protection set up already, right? RIGHT? Today we're going to look at some methods of protecting your data from the unpredictable world we live in.
Use Strong, Unique Passwords
Awhile back I wrote this in-depth article about how to design a powerful password that's easy to remember and hard to crack. This is absolutely critical for protecting your online identity! If you only use one or two passwords for all your accounts, a breach of Ello's database would change your once-forgotten social network account into a nightmare of identity theft. Just imagine if you lost all access to all of your online accounts. You would literally have to start from scratch. New email address, new bank accounts, new Reddit account with no karma. Oh the humanity!
Enable Two-Step Verification
This is something I put off until recently. With two-step verification, if you're logging in to an account from a new computer, you need to know your password and the unique code sent to your phone. This is doubly good because it prevents anyone without your phone from getting into your account and alerts you at the very moment someone is trying to log in to your account.
Yes, it is a bit of a pain to double the effort involved in logging in, but I would guess this simple measure would stop 99% of hackers from getting access. Most basic websites don't have this feature available yet, but luckily it's only super important for your email accounts, online file storage, and financial websites. Google, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Microsoft, PayPal, Twitter, and Yahoo all offer two-step verification. Now get to it! If you want to find out exactly how to enable a specific website, just Google "two-step <your website of choice>" and you'll be well on your way.
Make Redundant Data Backups
Sounds thrilling, doesn't it? Well, if you're OCD, it kind of is. But we won't get too deep into the gratification of impeccable folder structures today. We've already been down that road. Regardless of your level of organization, backups are critical if you want to hold on to your files for the long term.
My idea of what a backup is has changed drastically since the popularity and availability of cloud storage has exploded along with the abandonment of physical media for installing software and video games. Before, I thought of backups as a snapshot of my computer, including all programs, files, music, movies, and so on. That way, if a hard drive died, I could restore to my previous save state. But that had it's limitations. It took a long time to make entire new copies of your data over and over. It was cumbersome to buy and keep track of multiple drives. It was such a process that I would often go a year before bucking up and making a backup.
Fast forward to today and my "backups" are now more like "dynamic pools of easy-to-access data." Thanks to Google Drive, all of my personal data (dating back to 1995) lives in the cloud where I can access it from anywhere. Every photo I've taken. Every 3D project I've made. It's all there. But that doesn't sound very safe, huh? If someone got in there, they could delete all of the data (and then empty the trash) and I would be left with nothing. But Google Drive can also store your files locally, where they sync to the cloud. Thanks of this feature, I have a full copy of my life's data on my laptop, in the cloud, and on an external hard drive that I keep unplugged in a safe place. This means there are three points of redundancy. There would have to be some catastrophic disasters for me to lose my data.
If you're interested in adopting a similar setup with Google Drive, I highly recommend reading these two articles I wrote about the topic:
In these articles I talk about how to organize your data, compress it, then ship it out to the cloud. It's a lot of work, but you'll be left with an immaculate database that will be with you for the rest of your life. A few days of work now can improve your digital life forever!
Find My iPhone (or Mac/Android)
Find My iPhone is probably familiar to most Apple users. If your phone gets stolen or lost, you can log in to iCloud on a computer or smartphone and see your phone on a map (if it's still on). Simply go to www.icloud.com/find or www.google.com/android/devicemanager for Android users. Try it out right now! You should see your phone if you have the feature enabled. But what's great about Apple laptops is they also have this feature available. Just go into System Preferences > iCloud and enable "Find My Mac." Now you should be able to see your laptop on www.icloud.com/find assuming your laptop is on (even if the lid is shut and it's sleeping!). If you have a Windows laptop, I think you'll have to install third-party software to have these features. Prey is a solid solution that gives you access to your computer if it gets compromised.
One of my coworkers had his car broken into earlier this week. They took his laptop which included five years worth of data on it. Now that data is gone. So take the time today to make your data secure for life!