Guarding your memories is a broad concept and covers a few facets. In this post, we’ll talk about backing up your data, protecting it and protecting your identity.
Backing Up Your Data
Here are the basic components of a computer: are central processing unit (CPU), physical memory and a hard drive. A hard drive is one of two types: spinning disk or a solid-state storage (SSD). SSD is faster than a spinning hard disk but is more expensive. You can also buy an external hard drive (spinning or SSD) that connects to your computer by a USB cord. Storage cost in hard drives is coming down quickly.
For this post, we’ll use hard drive to refer to internal or external SSD or spinning hard drives.
Most people save files to their local hard drive. For PCs the default is My Documents, Pictures and the like. For Macs, you use Finder and your data is stored in a default folder.
As important as the hard drive is backing it up. You can back up your internal hard drive to an external drive in several ways. Apple has an app called Time Machine, which backs up your files to an external hard drive.
Windows 10 doesn’t have anything as simple or elegant as Time Machine. But there are third-party tools. If you want to keep everything Windows, two tools come with the operating system; File History and Windows Backup and Restore.
Use File History to save multiple versions of any given file, so you can go back to a previous version of that file and restore it. That’s useful for files that change frequently, like Word documents. But if you have hundreds or even thousands of files (lots of family photos!) this isn’t useful.
Backup and Restore, on the other hand, creates a single backup of the latest version of your files on a schedule. It can also create a system image, which is a snapshot of your entire system, including operating system, programs and files. This makes it easy to restore everything if something disastrous happens to your computer.
Time Machine or Backup and Restore is a good first step. And using these tools to back up files to an external hard disk is all you need to do, right?
Wrong. Here’s a quick story to show why.
An IT-savvy friend of mine backed up his data on an external hard drive, just as he should. But then his house burned to the ground. He and his family escaped harm. But all those external hard drives, and his data on them, burned up. Backing up data in your home is a good first step. But you need to do more.
What does more look like? I suggest a cloud backup service. There are a few options in cloud backup. We recommend BackBlaze, which is the least expensive and most comprehensive backup system. BackBlaze backs up all your local files and files on external hard drives to the cloud. No matter what happens to your computers or hard disks you always have your data.
Backblaze is what I use. I have close to a million photos, movies and songs. The price is the same for everyone. Use Backblaze to ensure all your digital memories are secure.
Protecting Your Security
Security is a vastly important but mostly overlooked aspect of home computing. Over the years, I’ve used many anti-virus and malware software apps. These days, though, Windows 10 or Mac users are protected from the bad guys automatically.
Microsoft suffered for many years because Apple users always said they didn’t have virus or malware problems. PC users did and had to purchase programs with subscriptions to keep their PCs inoculated from viruses.
With Windows 10, Microsoft stepped up. If you have Windows 10, you get the latest antivirus protection with Windows Security. From the first startup, Windows Security runs and protects your PC by scanning for malicious software (malware), viruses, and security threats. Windows Security uses real-time protection to scan everything you download or run on your PC.
Each Windows update includes the latest protection for Windows Security. This ensures the health of your PC from the latest threats.
If you run an earlier version of Windows with Microsoft Security Essentials, move to Windows Security. And do not turn off Windows Security. If you have, turn it back on now. I’ll wait.
Another form of security protects you while you travel the Internet. Most of us travel from time to time. My wife and I travel a lot and publish a blog, Go Go 2 Slow Go, to document our trips and recommendations. While traveling, we use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure our computers and data. What is a VPN and why do you need it?
First, here are the basics. When you travel, you probably use the hotel Wi-Fi, right? Does it require a username or password to log in? If it asks for only your last name and room number, it doesn’t count. Unless the hotel’s Wi-Fi is secure behind a barrier, it’s easy for a hacker to invade your privacy while you surf the Internet and feast on room service.
I know countless people who used their username and passwords to access a credit card or bank accounts or shopped online from a hotel only to find out someone was using their information soon after.
Most credit card companies do a good job notifying you when it looks like your card has been compromised. But by then, it’s too late. It can take months to get fraudulent purchases refunded to your card and requires a lot of work on your part to ensure it happens.
That’s where VPNs helps. A VPN is a private encrypted tunnel between your computer and where you live. In our case, that’s Texas. So, I choose Texas for my endpoint of the tunnel. I’m writing this post from Hungary, but the Internet thinks I’m stateside. I pick and choose where my VPN tunnel ends. It’s helpful for United States citizens to pick a place in America because all their content will be localized the way they are used to seeing it. Without a VPN, your content is either prohibited or your language default changes in your favorite browser.
With a VPN, you don’t worry about this. And using a VPN whenever you travel virtually eliminate online credit card fraud.
We use a service from Private Internet Access. It is installed on our mobile phones and our other devices. I usually take a tablet and a laptop with me. Madeline usually has her laptop, too. All our devices have a VPN. It’s easy to set up. As Karl Malden used to say on the commercial, “Don’t leave home without it!”
Using Password Protection
Finally, guard your memories with password protection. But passwords are so frustrating! I know you have too many passwords to keep track of for all your online accounts. You might even reuse the same passwords for different accounts and website. Am I right?
“83 percent of people use the same password for multiple sites.”
Cyclonis, “Password Security Report: 83% of Users Surveyed Use the Same Password for Multiple Sites,” July 13, 2018
Cyberattacks are the fastest growing crime in the United States. But they’re also expanding into Europe, Asia and South America. Marriott disclosed near the end of 2018 that the second-largest data breach in history occurred with their system. It’s estimated to have exposed 500 million user accounts. The Yahoo hack—the largest ever—was recalculated to have affected three billion user accounts. The 2017 Equifax breach affected 145.5 million customers. It’s only a matter of time before any one of us can be seriously affected by a data hacker.
And most of us don’t use the safest passwords. Besides, how hard is it to remember 167 passwords?!
What you need is a password manager. Later we’ll compare the top password managers. After doing that I decided on Dashlane, which I use exclusively.
Dashlane keeps track of all your passwords and offers a creator to make more complex and safe passwords. All you need to remember is one master password. Dashlane does the rest.
Any time you need a username and password, Dashlane will and enter it for you. And Dashlane warns you when you’ve used the same password on other sites or accounts or if the password is weak. It’s like having your own personal IT security person watching over your shoulder, advising you on password strength and remembering all your passwords for you.
Dashlane also searches the dark web looking for your information in places you don’t want to look. Yes, there is a dark web.
Most of us are familiar with the Internet and browsers. Your browser searches the surface web. The surface web is the portion of the Internet iceberg above the water. Search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo index new additions and changes to the surface web. Preserving Family Memories lives on the surface web.
But there are two other forms of the web, known as the deep web and the dark web. Under the surface web is the deep web. These are locations not indexed but considered legitimate. There are many reasons why information is not discoverable by search engines.
The deep web consists of legal, financial and academic data and other legitimate data sites. You don’t want this data to be discoverable by search engines. This data might include your banking account, so you want these data sites protected. The deep web is large since important data for most of us lives here.
The dark web often is associated with criminal activity. There are occasional legitimate uses. But it’s not normal. A study published by King's College London, "The Darkness Online," found 300,000 addresses on the dark web, translating to roughly 205,000 web pages. Minuscule compared to Google's estimate of 30 trillion pages on the surface web. And the difference between the dark web and the surface web continues to grow.
The deep web is the largest of the three, but the least understood because we can’t see it. Estimates vary but a frequently cited figure puts the deep web at about 7,500 terabytes of information, compared to 19 terabytes for the surface web. This is most of the submerged bulk of the iceberg. The dark web is very small indeed, just the bottom tip of that submerged part of the iceberg. But it is where all the bad sites and criminals live.
Unfortunately, your personal data can wind up on the dark web. So, it’s important you have a service like Dashlane looking out for you on the dark web. And if Dashlane finds any of your data on the dark web, it tells you which passwords to change to protect you.
Dashlane also helps you fill out forms. It remembers all your information, like address, phone number, email, social security number and birth date. When you are signing up for a new account on the web, Dashlane completes the fields for you, saving you time and frustration.
So, that’s data security: backing up your data, protecting it and using passwords to secure it. We’ll have more posts on the details, but this should get you thinking about how you can start protecting your family memories.