When Hackers Steal Your Computer Backup

You know how important it is to make a computer backup. But be careful—in your haste to do the right thing, you may be putting your private information is harm’s way. Some people are cyber security terrorists themselves because they do not care about computer security and end up putting everyone that is connected to them at risk. This is especially true if you have sensitive information stored with your back files.

Cloud-Based Computer Backup Problems

Many of today’s most popular computer backup providers offer cloud-based storage. You install a computer backup application on your computer and it sends your backup data to a remote server. To recover your data you simply download it from the remote server.

But what’s simple for you is also simple for a hacker. Most cloud-based computer backup providers protect your account with a username and password. If you use the same username and password on another site, as many people do, and it gets hacked, as many sites do, then the hacker can access your computer backup data at his leisure.

An Even Greater Computer Backup Risk

But stealing a few random people’s data does not interest most hackers. They either want something they can quickly turn into money or something that will make them famous—something like hacking all of the accounts on a backup provider.

It’s happened before—some problems in cloud-based Dropbox may have allowed hackers to access any customer data they wanted during a limited time window in June 2011. Other cloud backup providers may have other undiscovered flaws that could let hackers sneak through the door.

Hackers wouldn’t even need to download huge amounts of data if they broke into your computer backup. If I were a hacker, I’d download the file on everyone’s computer that stores saved passwords when you click “Save Password For This Site” in your Web browser.

Everyone who used that feature for PayPal, bank sites, and investment accounts could almost instantly find their accounts emptied.

What About Physical Computer Backups?

Say you make a backup onto a removable USB disk drive or an external hard drive. Hackers can only access that drive remotely if they hack into your computer—and what’s the point of stealing your backup if they have access to your computer directly?

But physical backups can easily be stolen by people who know you—people who are especially interested in your information. Think poorly behaved kids, jealous co-workers, mischievous co-college students, and significant others looking for dirt.

In a case like this you might not even realize that someone is accessing your backups, reading your emails, and checking your Web browser history. And it’s little comfort to you that they’re not professional hackers—after all, these are the people who are probably in the best position to make your life miserable.

The best security for physical backups is good physical security. A safe or safe deposit box makes a great location for physical backups. (Although you should use Solid State Drives [SSDs] if nearby magnets are a concern.)

Whatever your situation, take due care to secure your computer backups against hackers and other unsavory characters.