Despite knowing better, most people don’t do backups of their personal digital data. If you do backups, good for you. If not, read this article by Mat Honan describing how he lost much of his digital life, then start doing backups:
Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.
Setting up a backup procedure is a one-time process that costs you a few hours and roughly 100 €. At the very least, have a hard drive that you copy all the data that are on your laptop / PC a few times a week – the copying can be done by specialized software and will take less time than you spend at dinner. Don’t use this drive for anything else and disconnect it if it’s not in use.
Also, make local copies of stuff you have stored online – especially emails, but also other things you care about, like your Facebook profile. Once it’s on your laptop, it will be automatically included in the backup to your external hard drive. Most of this can be done by scripts so it’s not that much work.
If you want to step things up a little bit, have a second hard drive in physically different location – e.g. in your parent’s home. Switch both disks once or twice a month. Additionally you can use online services that offer loads of space for small money to make offsite backups that are easily accessible. Online backups should be encrypted though.
Now you might argue that the situation described in the article was a very specific hack. It was, but the most important source of data-loss are probably failing hard drives. They do brake, often. In the end, it doesn’t matter why your data is gone, once it is. Also, you shouldn’t fool yourself by pretending there’s nothing important on your laptop or in your email-account. There is. An almost-done thesis, years of photos, personal mails, contact data and birthdays. Even if some of these things can be recovered – doing so is a quite an amount of work, way more than backing up your data for the rest of your life is. And your most important information is probably the one that’s very personal and hence not to be found on your friends‘ laptops.
Do regular backups. Disk space is cheap and backups can almost completely be automated (and hence take no time). There’s no reason not to do backups.
Also, don’t use three-character twitter handles:
By wiping my MacBook and deleting my Google account, they now not only had the ability to control my account, but were able to prevent me from regaining access. And crazily, in ways that I don’t and never will understand, those deletions were just collateral damage. My MacBook data — including those irreplaceable pictures of my family, of my child’s first year and relatives who have now passed from this life — weren’t the target. Nor were the eight years of messages in my Gmail account. The target was always Twitter. My MacBook data was torched simply to prevent me from getting back in.
He said the hack was simply a grab for my three-character Twitter handle. That’s all they wanted. They just wanted to take it, and fuck shit up, and watch it burn. It wasn’t personal.
I cited this part to point out, that for reasons you don’t even know yet, you may loose your entire digital life just because.