Science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Cloud computing promises to be just that sort of technology: always available, instantly updateable, and magically able to transform our lives and businesses.
Then you get news stories like this one about tech journalist Mat Honan. Due to security flaws with his cloud service providers and some lax security practices on Honan’s part, a hacker was able to gain access to his computer and remotely wipe it. Pictures, video, documents: all went up in smoke, literally before his eyes.
The news cycle’s moved on to fresher fish, but this cautionary tale is one that still has something to say to businesses; namely, that data protection is always something better to plan for than react to.
Honan actually spoke to the hacker who claimed responsibility for the damage to his technology, and was surprised to learn that losing his data was just a side affect. The hacker’s main objective was to gain access to the reporter’s Twitter account for some epic trolling. Everything else happened as a method of keeping Honan from getting back into his account. Attacks are not always logical or meant to achieve a major business objective: sometimes it’s as simple a motivation as vandalism.
But what if that attacker had wanted to get to something more valuable, like Honan’s business contacts? Even a very small business has data that could be used to victimize their customers through phishing attacks. If you don’t think you need protection for yourself, than you should consider what a potential hack could do to your customers.
Honan engaged in a Q&A session on Google recently, and gave this advice:
I think that an essential part of security, and something I wasn’t doing, which is making regular backups … most people aren’t losing data from a hack, they’re losing data from a hard drive crash or from, you know, some sort of damage to the machine itself.
As he later explained, think about spilling a cup of coffee one morning on your machine. What would happen? Would you be able to get to your financial documents like tax statements or invoices? What about customer data or shipping orders?
Honan himself is a fairly tech-savvy guy, but he admitted that he hadn’t backed up his data because of the extra work involved. It wasn’t particularly hard, just time-consuming. As for a data failure, “It was something I was aware of but I hadn’t considered as a real possibility.”
Not a real possibility, that is, until it actually happened.
Honan was fortunately able to get back important files with the help of a data recovery firm. But that miracle came at a premium, as Forbes reported: “The bill for all this? $1,690. Data doesn’t come cheap.”
That price tag only covers the cost of data recovery for one individual’s pictures, priceless and irreplaceable as they were. But what about if your business had to temporarily close due to a similar situation? Even assuming a firm could recover the data (at whatever price they charge), could you afford the time you spent unable to work? How long would it take you to recover?
Even the best of intentions are hard to put in practice; as Honan himself said, when it comes to data protection, “It’s not just starting these habits, it’s maintaining them.” That’s why we work with clients to establish a routine that automatically backs up their data on a regular basis and stores it in a secure, remote server that we monitor. There’s no more “remember to get this done,” just the peace of mind that data security offers.
It’s our hope that you can learn from this example rather than a similarly painful experience. We’re available to discuss a data protection plan for your business at any time via phone or email, and we can recommend industry partners to get you started in your research.
It’s your business data at stake: chose your strategy (and your partners) wisely.