Computers work by storing and manipulating information called data. Data is stored electronically. This has a number of consequences:
- Data can be easily copied. A computer can read and copy information much faster than a person could copy a book by hand.
- Stolen data will not always appear to be missing. Anyone with access can easily make their own copy of data.
- Destroyed data can be difficult or impossible to retrieve. Data is stored in a way that's easy for computers to use but impossible for people. If a computer can't read the data anymore then it's useless.
- Disposing of data isn't the same as disposing of physical media. Shredding sensitive papers might be enough, but special precautions are needed for disposing of data. This is because data does not deteriorate over time like physical media does, and because there are techniques to recover improperly disposed data.
Because of these challenges, here are 3 ways to keep your data safe:
- Maintain backups. Backing up data means having an extra copy in case something happens to the original. While drives can have very long lives, all storage drives will eventually fail and they can also be damaged in natural disasters. Backups are easy to make and fairly inexpensive. For added security you may consider using cloud storage or offsite backups.
- Control access. Once someone has a copy of sensitive data there isn't much that can be done to contain it. Prevention is important. This can be done by limiting access to sensitive hard drives, carefully controlling read/write privileges, and encrypting important data.
- Safe disposal. Eventually, you may find some data will no longer be useful, or necessary, to keep. This doesn't mean it doesn't need to be protected. Just as you wouldn't throw sensitive papers directly into the trash, you should make sure unnecessary sensitive data is properly destroyed.