Securing your assets……

And I don’t mean a bra or tight fitting under crackers..
When I think of assets I normally think of stuff I can touch so with regards my personal IT that’ll be the iPad, Samsung phone, laptop and desktop PC but the reality is that it’s actually more than that. What about your data? Your music or 15 years or digital photos of the dogs or the kids growing up? What about all your personal correspondence? What about your online identity or bank account?

In previous blogs I’ve talked about using multiple passwords and 2 Factor Authentication to protect the confidentiality of your data. Confidentiality forms part of the triangle in information security. You don’t want people who don’t need access to your data gaining access. The other two sides of the triangle are integrity and availability. Integrity means that you don’t want someone changing it or corrupting it, for example ransomware encrypting your data. Availability means that it’s always there when you need it and you can gain access to. In terms of the ransomware attack it’s there but unavailable to use.

Have A Different Approach Depending On What You’re Securing

There are many many layers to securing your data so you need to think about the risk and the impact. This then allows you to consider what the best approach is and whether you want to spend a lot or live with the risk.

For example, losing your hard drive on your PC would have a high impact to the availability of your data. You may lose it completely or it may become corrupt thereby affecting the integrity. The risk is probably low to medium if it’s a typical desktop however if you’re using a laptop without a solid state hard drive then it’s a lot higher. I’ve lost count over the years on the amount of laptops that have been damaged purely because they are mobile devices.

Backing up your data doesn’t need to be expensive. You need to consider a 3-2-1 approach; 3 copies of the data, 2 which are local and one that is off site in case the house burns down etc. My approach is this:

  • I have a laptop and a desktop PC. The desktop PC has a second hard drive in it that hosts the majority of my personal data. This means that if the C drive is corrupt then I’m not going to lose the data. Also, my laptop hard drive is encrypted so if that’s stolen then the bloke selling it for £50 in the pub is selling a brick.
  • I use Google Drive and pay a couple of dollars a month for 100 GB of data. This synchronises with the desktop and about 80 GB of my photos sit quite happily in the cloud. They are accessible by all my devices and if my hard drive dies, my memories are still there. In addition, all my CD’s that I collected over the years that were burned to the hard drive of my computer now reside in Google Play
  • I have a 1TB NAS (network attached storage) device that my hard drive synchronises to. This includes all my music and photos. So, with the 3-2-1 approach I have the original copy on the hard drive, a copy on the NAS and another in Google Drive. Google Drive also comes with the ability of rolling a copy back within 30 days so if the original is corrupted and synchronised to the cloud then I can revert back to a decent copy.

So, I’m not too bothered if I lose my photos or music on my hard drive as they’re in the cloud. It’s a low impact as I can download them again.  The high impact bit is the operating system and all my programs that I’ve installed over time. It would take a complete age to restore it all to a working level. I’m not even sure whether I still have all the media or settings to get me back up and running.

With this in mind, another approach I’ve taken is to take a snapshot of my PC at a point in time. I’ve used Acronis True Image to take a copy of the whole hard drive and have stored it on my NAS box. This means that if I need to restore to a new hard drive it restores a lot quicker than re-installing and copying everything back.

Don’t Be Held To Ransom!


Ransomware is one on the increase. This is where you’re infected by a virus that encrypts all of your documents and makes them inaccessible to you. The attackers will demand that you hand over some cash to get the encryption key.

First thing first, don’t hand over cash. Walk away from it. If you can, restore the state of the PC using system restore. If not, delete the encrypted files and clean up the PC using anti-malware software and restore your data either from another local copy (in my case the NAS box) or your cloud service (Google Drive).

I’ll cover more on ransomware in a future blog.

Ok..so I’m using complex passwords so we’re all good, right?

Nah. You’re on the way to being a lot more secure than you were when you were using the same password across all web sites but you’ve not completely reduced the risk.

Add A Little Extra To Your Authentication….

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There are two elements that you use to log onto most websites; your username (typically email address) and a password.  So after reading my last blog you’ve changed all your passwords but it’s still possible that someone has managed to get it through a hack or social engineering.  You can add an extra layer to that authentication by introducing 2 Factor Authentication (2FA).

2 FA for most websites comes in the form of introducing your mobile number phone in the process.  You log onto the site using your username and password which then prompts the site to send you a text with a code.  You enter this code on the website to verify it’s you and then the device you’re using is now authorised.

This means that to impersonate you the hacker needs access to your mobile to intercept the text message.  It’s not impossible but it’s a lot harder.  I’m guessing if there is a hacker out there with the technology to get username, password AND text messages then you’re probably James Bond and the Chinese government are after you.

Not all websites use 2 FA but most of the major social media and email accounts do.  For instance, if you’re using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then I suggest you set it up.  Likewise, if you’re using Gmail or Yahoo email and of course you don’t want anyone stealing your hard earned cash through Amazon.

The 2 Factor Auth List is a great website that lets you know whether a web site utilises 2 FA and also points you in the right direction on how to set it up.

https://twofactorauth.org/

What Else Can I Expect From This Blog?

Over the coming weeks I’ll cover such topics as:

  • Securing your personal information assets through backing up
  • Protecting yourself from viruses and attacks
  • Wifi networks….are you sure they’re secure?
  • How to protect your hard drives if they are stolen

If you’d like me to cover another topic then give me a shout!