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Backup: best protection against ransomware

30 March 2021

We've all been there: you've deleted some old files and accidentally deleted a subfolder with things you still need. These are the times you're glad you regularly back up your computer and can easily retrieve the deleted files.  

A backup is also the best protection against hardware that suddenly crashes and against hacker attacks with viruses or ransomware. However, many people still forget to regularly back up their computer files. 

Don't give cybercriminals a chance 

Ransomware is malicious software ( malware ) that blocks your computer or certain infected files from users. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom in exchange for access to the blocked files.  

In recent years, we have literally been inundated with cases of ransomware whereby entire companies, hospitals, shipping companies were unable to function for days because their files had been encrypted by hackers. Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to scam people. Increasingly they have started encrypting backups so that they too can no longer be used.  

How can you make a secure backup? 

Does it still make sense to make backups? Yes, it does! The best protection against ransomware or other malware is to regularly use multiple backup disks that you also keep offline, not just in the cloud or on a PC connected to the internet. An external hard disk is still a very good and affordable solution.  

Many companies offer automatic backups in the cloud.  

Advantages:  

  • your data are in the cloud, and therefore not in the same place as your computer. 
  • backing up often happens automatically and you don't have to think about it yourself. 

Disadvantages:  

  • it is not free.  
  • you need to take into account your data usage – a backup of 100 GB also means 100 GB of data transmission. In other words, first find out whether your provider applies a monthly maximum upload/download limit.  
  • if you don't apply encryption, your data are also legible to your cloud provider. 

  In terms of data security, regular software updates are also highly recommended. That way you can be sure your software is always the most recent version and has the most recent security. 

Which files need to be backed up? 

To know which files and data to back up, just ask yourself these questions:  

  1. what files and data do you need to continue working or to do what you like doing on your PC? 
  2. what data do you definitely not want to see in the hands of criminals? 
  3. which files are valuable to you? 

This includes:  

  • work documents, personal documents, photos you value. 
  • your browser bookmarks or favourites (special applications exist that keep your logins and passwords safe for you). 
  • data that you keep on OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.  
  • mails and contacts. 

A copy is not a backup 

If you really want to be sure, a copy of files and folders that you consider essential will not suffice. A good backup is more than that.  

Making a quick copy is indeed easy. However, some files will not be copied, because they are still in use. This is not just about that one Word file you are still working on, but also about essential files that your operating system is using at the time you make a copy. 

A 'real' backup may take a long time, but is certainly preferable. When you make a backup with software specifically intended for this purpose, you're taking a picture of your system. All files are copied, including hidden and protected files. You can choose between three types of backup. 

  • A full backup, of the whole system, without taking into account what was already safely backed up. This takes a long time and implies considerable data transmission. 
  • An incremental backup looks for data that have changed since the previous (incremental) backup and only backs up these data. It is faster, but the disadvantage is that, in the event of a problem, you first have to restore the full backup and then the incremental one. 
  • A differential backup also looks for data that have changed and only backs up these data. The difference with an incremental backup is that this always starts from the full, initial backup and not from the last backup. 

The latter two are interesting for people who make backups in the cloud, because they mean less data transmission. They are also less time-consuming. But above all, remember that spending time on a proper backup can potentially save you a lot of trouble.  

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.