Internet privacy and security course
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Chapter 17

Digital data loss

Frankly speaking, there is no so much to talk about this threat. You had some valuable electronic data and then they disappeared. What to do in the case of loss is often a philosophical question. In December 1914 a fire completely destroyed the laboratory of the American inventor Thomas Edinson, all his manuscripts and drawings burned down. When his son, Thomas Alva Edison, Jr., discovered about the fire, he started looking for his father in horror, worrying that he could have had a heart attack.

What was his astonishment when he found his father standing at a safe distance calmly and watching the fire. Thomas asked to call his wife and said “Look, we have never seen anything like that in our whole life. The catastrophe is very useful, as all our mistakes burned down! Thank God, we can start from the very beginning! ”

If you do not find this approach acceptable, I recommend to take care of creating backup copies of valuable data in advance. We have a separate section of the course on the issue of backups with detailed instructions for different operating systems, here we will talk about the typical mistakes made when creating backups and the common causes of digital data loss.
But before starting, I would like to clarify one linguistic point. Backup stands for reserve, standby, and it is actively used by the Russian-speaking professional IT-community.

The reasons for information destruction

The first reason is software errors. Do not think that the threat is mythical or is an invention of the author. Some time ago an error was detected in the most popular Steam software, which led to the deletion of all data in the user's folder, there was even an official recommendation not to install Steam in the root of C drive (or any other drive). Otherwise, when deleting Steam, all documents, files and folders were deleted as well, except for files and system folders that it did not have an authorization to delete.

Steam as a whole is quite a problematic application, once it showed up vulnerabilities that could lead to remote code execution, in other words, a malefactor could run whatever they wanted on your computer. Therefore, I have a tip, to play games on a separate computer, but not on a work one.


For security purpose separate the gaming and work computers.

As a rule, the data deleted by the program method are well restored with the help of special software, if the deletion was not intentionally performed using a special program with multilevel deletion like Panic Button.

The second reason is hardware destruction. My friend had a similar problem when his USB flash drive just stopped working. Fortunately, he was able to recover the lost information in a special data recovery company. A lot of stories can be found on the web, as people have their hard drives broken or burnt out, so there are too many such stories to consider this risk as insignificant.

There is one enlightening moment in the data recovery story of my friend. Despite the value of the data contained, his USB flash drive was not encrypted, so by giving it to repair service he just shared his data with third parties and possibly with the special services. Do not be surprised that the special services work closely with the repair centers, I have cited examples from life of arrests after putting the equipment into repair in this chapter of the course.

Don’t be like my friend, encrypt all your external storage, here's a guide for you.
The third reason is the physical destruction or complete loss of a device with data. You could have a laptop stolen or a fire could happen at home, anything can happen in life and such risks cannot be excluded.

Sometimes a laptop is stolen intentionally, hunting for valuable information. Several years ago in Russia there was a trial for the owners of a popular chain of stores selling phones and components Euroset. Some burglars broke into the office of the lawyer of the vice-president of Euroset and stole a working laptop with case materials, according to the victim, out of 5 offices nothing was taken except a working laptop with data on the criminal case.

To be protected against such situations you need to have an integrated hard drive encryption, additional use of cryptocontainers for especially valuable information and obviouly a reliable system of regular automatic backup of valuable data, including secret places for backups. Passwords should be created with these recommendations taken in