Avoiding Digital Disaster

This week a friend approached me to see if I might be able to help her recover photos from her computer. Her husband died about 6 months ago and all of the photos she had of him for the past several years were on this machine. The computer was vintage 2011 and there were likely hundreds of precious memories stored on the machine. The computer would not start up and she had no backup of the photos.

There is not a happy ending to this story. I was not able to get her laptop to start up, so I removed the hard drive and connected it to another computer hoping that it would be recognized. Unfortunately, it was not recognized…the drive was dead. It is such a shame that she had no backup of her precious photos and that there is no practical way to recover them from this hard drive that failed.

There are two things I preach when it comes to using computers:

    1. Backup your data! Have at least one backup, especially of your photos and important documents. Even if you use a cloud service to store your photos there is no guarantee that it won’t fail at some point. And you can just about guarantee that your computer’s hard drive will eventually fail. The odds that your hard drive will fail increases exponentially after 3-4 years of use. My recommendation is that you always have 2 local backups and one backup somewhere in the cloud (Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Photos, etc.). Don’t be like my friend without backups when your computer fails.
    3. Use strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts online. My experience is that most people have a few pet passwords they use for all of their accounts. This is recipe for DISASTER! Here’s the potential problem. Most passwords are EXTREMELY insecure, even if you think you’re being tricky by using a few “@” and “!” as part of it. There are computer programs that can guess these passwords in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

      The second problem is that if you use the same password for several of your accounts, a bad guy now has access to all of these accounts when he figures out your preferred password(s). When one of your accounts is compromised, you run the risk of several of your other accounts being compromised. There are two programs I recommend to generate and store your passwords. This is the only way to fly if you want a strong, unique password for each of your online accounts. The first is LastPass, a free and excellent password manager. The second, and my favorite, is 1Password. The idea with these programs is that you setup a single password you will remember to access the program and then generate strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts.

      All of my passwords are 25 characters long with a random combination of upper/lower case letters, symbols and numbers. I don’t know ANY of my passwords, other than the one password I use to open the program. I have over 700 passwords stored in 1Password for my accounts and those of my clients (when they request that I maintain access). Each one is unique and strong. This is the most secure form of password management and it will definitely keep your accounts safe online. Even if one of your accounts is breached, the bad guy will not be able to use your password with any of your other accounts.

If you need assistance with developing a backup plan to make sure your photos and other important files are kept safe, even if your computer fails or is stolen, I can help. And if you are among the majority of people who have 2 or 3 pet passwords you use for all of your accounts, I can also help you to dramatically improve your online security.

Don’t be like my friend and wait until you lose all of your precious photos before you realize that you don’t have a good backup plan. And don’t wait until you are “hacked” to implement a password management system that’s secure. Give me a call and I’ll be happy to help you avoid both of these potential disasters.


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