The Importance of Backups

This month’s issue of OUCH! from SANS focuses on backups. Specifically, what backups are, how they work and how to create the best backup strategy.

Unfortunately, too many people fail to realize how important backups can be. Backups provide peace of mind as well as business continuity. Think about how you would feel if a hard drive crashed and you lost thousands of your family’s photos, or all of your work files.

With a backup, either by using local storage media such as an external hard drive, or by using a cloud-based service, you can rest assured that everything can be recovered.

Read (and download) the issue here (PDF).

Learn more about backup options at MIT, including CrashPlan.

A Strong Argument for Backing Up and Virus Protection

A recent article in the NY Times, “How My Mom Got Hacked,” tells the nightmare story of how a woman had 5,726 files locked by the CryptoWall attackers.

CryptoWall is the updated version of CryptoLocker Ransomware. The modus operandi of the CryptoWall attackers is to install malware on your machine that locks your files or hard drive using encryption which only they can unlock. To get your files back, they demand a ransom. To pay the ransom, you have to purchase Bitcoins.

If you find yourself in this situation, unless you have information in your files that is deeply personal and if exposed would be embarrassing, or cause harm to others, the recommendation by the FBI is to not pay the extortionists.

It’s easier to do this if you don’t need the files back and have made backups. So back up your files often using an external drive or a cloud backup service. MIT offers CrashPlan for students, faculty and staff.

Using anti-virus software and keeping your operating system and software up to date will protect you from getting infected with CryptoWall-type malware. Learn more about virus protection at MIT.

Hacked, Now What?

The topic of this month’s issue of OUCH!, the security awareness newsletter from, is about what to look for to determine if your computer is hacked and if so, what you can do about it.

It can happen even when you’re being careful about browsing online and downloading software. Here are some things mentioned in the issue of OUCH! to keep in mind and to help you survive a computer virus:

  • To see if the computer has been compromised: check your anti-virus program for any indicators that it was not able to remove affected files to quarantine. Other indicators may be that programs are running that you did not install, windows or ads pop open without you requesting them, or the computer is crashing or very slow.
  • The sooner you respond to a compromise, the better. Contact the Help Desk and, if it involves a work computer, your supervisor.
  • DO NOT turn the computer off. You may destroy valuable evidence.
  • Disconnect the computer from the network and put it to sleep.
  • Ways to survive a compromise: make sure you have backups running.
  • Change your important passwords (all of them) from a computer you trust.
  • The computer may need to be rebuilt from scratch. A professional help desk will save your data, if possible, and wipe the computer clean of all software, then reinstall the operating system and files, after ensuring none of them are infected.

For information on how to respond to a compromise when at MIT, see the Knowledge Base.

Security Tip: Backups and Recovery

This OUCH! newsletter issue (.pdf) on backups and recovery covers the important steps you can take to protect your information.

Backing up and recovering from a stored backup allow you to recover your data when something goes wrong, such as:

  • Hard drive failures
  • Accidental file deletions
  • Stolen or lost devices
  • Malware infections

Learn more about backup options at MIT.

The Disasters of a Backup Failure

Have you ever lost the latest work you had done on a file due to some kind of computer or software failure and realized you didn’t back it up? Or maybe somehow you deleted the one version of the file you had backed up?

Think of all the files you keep on your computer: work documents, personal documents, emails, music, photos, and home videos. Do you have second copies of these stored somewhere so that, should disaster strike, you can restore them?

If you haven’t made second copies, then let’s look at all the ways you could lose data easily: a residential fire, a stolen or lost laptop, a hard drive that crashes (which apparently occurs somewhere in the world every 15 seconds) or a computer virus!

Not scared yet? View this infographic from Online Backup Geeks (click on the image to zoom in) to see how major companies or organizations lost important data, including the backup recordings of the Apollo 11 landing, Toy Story 2, and the personal phone data of T-Mobile customers nationwide.

Let us avoid these kinds of disasters. See how you, as an MIT community member, can preserve your data and restore files using Tivoli Storage Manager, a service provided by Information Services & Technology.

Tip: Backup Your Essential Files

It’s usually just a matter of time before we experience a disaster with our computer that could cause us to lose every single file we ever stored on it. Whether the disaster is an irreparable drive or a loss or theft of the machine, that sinking feeling is one we always hope to avoid.

Having a backup folder is similar to insurance for our computers. We might lose the hardware, but the software and all our hard work and collected media need not disappear, so we can be back up and running on a working computer as soon as possible.

As a member of the MIT community, you can sign up for a basic backup plan at no cost, using the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) service through IS&T. TSM enables users to back up computer files to a secure server via MITnet or the Internet. The no-cost option lets you store up to 15GB. The other options store up to 300GB for $15/month or up to 10TB for $65/month.

Other options for backups.