Security Practices: 3 Good Reasons to Gap Your Backup

Everyone knows how important it is to back up their data, right? Sadly, I feel like I should laugh after saying that because I know many people that don’t understand this basic concept. If you are reading this though, you are likely in the IT field, so should know that old saying: If you aren’t backing up, you don’t care about your data security or haven’t assessed data security risk.

There are many different backup methods, many different vendors selling backup products, and almost every OS has a backup tool built in. As long as you are using one of these options, you can relax knowing your data is safe—or can you?

Backups – They Are Not All the Same

Here are some examples:

1. Let’s look at a typical SOHO backup method—the external hard drive. The user buys a drive that includes backup software, installs the software, then lets it run. The user may even check on it every now and again to see if it’s really working. This is inexpensive but also quite dangerous. Two common scenarios that would cause full data loss are theft and fire; in both cases, the PC and the external drive connected to it would likely be lost.

2. If we look at a slightly larger company, we’re likely to find backups being saved to a server or to NAS. These are usually kept in a separate room that’s locked. But if that’s the only copy of the backup, it suffers from the same issues as before. While theft of a server isn’t quite as likely (due to size and potential rack mounting), it can still happen. And a fire can destroy a server just as easily as it would destroy any PC.

3. What if you are in a secure building with great fire suppression? Does that mean your backup server is safe? Not too long ago, many people would have said yes. Due to the rise of ‘crypto’ malware though, this is no longer the case. These crypto infections are insidious, both in how they can get on your machines and in what they can do once there. They can erase Shadow Copies, they can encrypt the data on all drives (internal and external) on the infected PC, and worst of all, they can encrypt data on any drive on the network that the infected user has access to. This means that if an infected user has access to your backup server, it’s possible that all data on your network, including your backups, could get encrypted.

How should you secure your backup?

Create a Gap

To mitigate this risk, you need to create a gap of some sort. One such method is an access gap. This means you make sure that your backup server cannot be accessed without a password protected account and that nobody uses that account except when working with the backups. This ensures that even if a user’s machine gets infected, it won’t be able to gain access to your backups.

Many companies will make a copy of their backup on another device, which is then taken to another location. This creates a physical gap. The further away it is, the safer it is. This method also adds a layer of protection against theft and fire because your backups are in a completely different place.

If you aren’t creating a gap of some sort between your data and your backups, it’s time to change your habits. It may take some effort and some time, but your data is certainly worth it.

Remember, you should not only secure your backup but develop a Disaster Recovery plan as well. Need an advice in DB? Read tips from Richard Muniz on Disaster Recovery.

IT professional with more than 25 years of experience. Larry manages Windows networks, moderates an online IT community forum, and shares his experience of handling everyday sysadmin tasks in the most effective and creative ways.