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By Jack Ganssle

Hacked

Published 5/11/2009

According to http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Over_8M_Virginian_patient_records_held_to_ransom,_30_Apr_2009 and other sources, hackers broke into a database used by pharmacists in Virginia. 8 million records were deleted. The bad guys are demanding a $10 million ransom to return the data. They claim to have deleted the backups, too.

One could rant about poor security practices that left the data vulnerable. But what I find appalling, assuming the claim is correct, is the apparent lack of adequate and safe backups. I really shouldn't be surprised, as many of us - way too many - do a poor job insuring there's a safe copy of our digital data archived.

I hear constantly from developers who are losing weeks and months in recreating missing source code. Last year a company informed me they were shutting the doors due to a fire in the engineering department that took out their source code; no off-site backups were maintained.

My computer-illiterate brother has lost all of his pictures, twice, due to hard disk crashes, yet he still refuses to get serious about a simple backup solution. One would think a single bad experience would be reforming; to have had this happen twice and still not take preventative measures boggles the mind.

The most important asset many companies posses is their data, whether that's customer files, source code, or accounting files. Yet in far too many you're liable to get in trouble for defacing an unimportant asset - like a desk - while the data is vulnerable to hackers, fire, or an rm -r *.* from an angry laid-off worker.

Once we were told to keep an off-site backup. That is no longer good advice. We learned from Hurricane Katrina that it's possible to lose an entire city. Keep a backup a kilomile away. In this day of cloud computing that's simple and cheap.

We paint our houses to preserve them. Change the oil in the car to keep it running well. Owning anything implies a level of responsibility, and that, too, is true of computers. Even a ma and pa shop needs effective backups. Your home data, those pictures, music and other records, need to be archived frequently and safely.

How do you protect your data?