People often rely on their computer or the cloud to store their data without really thinking about what this means for data security and management. It is too easy to take data storage for granted and it is important that you consider where your data is stored and how secure this option is. Technical faults, theft or damage of a device could potentially result in the loss of sensitive, irreplaceable information so you need to ensure you have reliable backups.
Securing your data
Everywhere you store data or back it up needs to be secure. You need confidence that no one else will be able to access anything you save. This is especially important for any personal, confidential or sensitive data. This includes your own personal information such as banking details, but also includes any research data that you may have of a confidential nature. You may not even be aware of what sensitive information you are storing. Many browsers for example store passwords, visited websites and other personal information. While this is often encrypted, this information may be vulnerable to attack.
The University of Hull Information, Communication and Technology Department (ICTD) maintains the #InfoWise hashtag. Follow it on Twitter for help and advice in managing your data and keeping yourself safe online. More information is available on their InfoWise website.
There are two aspects to securing your data.
Physical security: Make sure any computer and mobile devices that you used are locked away when not on use. Such items are often a target for thieves and the loss of data on the devices can be more problematic than losing the device itself. It is important to remember that anyone who has access to your devices (such as housemates) potentially also has access to the data too. For example, information stored on a computer hard drive can be accessed relatively easily outside of windows despite the fact you may have passwords.
Virtual security: You should ensure your computer is protected by a firewall and has the latest virus-protection software installed. You should ensure you avoid suspicious websites, services and emails as they can compromise your system. If you store confidential material on memory sticks, external hard drives or laptops on campus, you should encrypt your data. Encryption is even more secure than using a password as all the files are unreadable unless correctly decrypted. For further information on how to encrypt your device see our local guide here or see the link on the right.
Beware the cloud
While cloud storage is useful, providers like DropBox, Google Drive, One Drive and Box may store your data in their global network. If this involves storing personal data outside of the UK and EEA you need to be aware that you may be breaching the Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has written a useful guide on Cloud Computing.
Where should you store your data?
The University of Hull network drives are ideal places to store information. These drives are routinely backed up and it is also possible to revert to earlier versions of the same file.
External hard disks. Many of these include a feature where backups can be performed at the touch of a button or automatically at regular intervals. It’s important to remember that you should keep your external hard disk on a different site. If a fire broke out, for example, all your information would be lost. You should also ensure your backup is encrypted using a password in case the device is stolen.
Online (Cloud) Backup. This technique is becoming increasingly popular – mainly because of the amount there is almost no limit on the amount available and you can access your information remotely. Lots of companies provide online backup facilities, such as Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive. The University provides students access to a Box account which has lots of storage and premium features. Login at hull.box.ac.uk to set up your account. You can then connect to your University of Hull Box account via the Box website or any Box app, widget or add-in using the Single sign-on (SSO) option.
Using USB sticks, CDs or DVDs may seem like a great way to back up your data but they are easy to lose, steal or infect, so it’s advisable to avoid these media.
Internal storage on your computer, laptop or mobile device is the most convenient storage location but it is also very vulnerable. These devices are a target for thieves so make sure you password protect them, encrypt your data and back them up elsewhere!
Make sure your backups are stored in a different location to the original files. If you use an external hard drive for example, you should make sure it is stored at a different location to your computer to minimise the risk of losing both to damage or stolen at the same time.