A chilling message appears on your computer screen: Ooops, your files have been encrypted! As you read on, your initial fears are confirmed. A hefty ransom – payable in Bitcoin – is required to liberate the files on your network. You reach for the telephone and call a cyber security specialist, who asks a simple question: is your data backed up? You answer: I think so.
The unfortunate reality is that many organisations lack adequate data backup – making them vulnerable to catastrophic events, such as ransomware attacks. Given how inexpensive data storage has become, organisations needn’t fear the cost of backing up their data properly. In this article, we identify the major causes of data loss and provide a simple way forward.
Major causes of data loss
It’s estimated that hardware failures account for 40 per cent of all data losses. A faulty Hard Disk Drive (HDD) in a computer or server is usually the culprit. As HDDs age, their moving parts weaken and become susceptible to malfunction and failure. HDDs can also be damaged by physical shocks, dust and moisture. Unfortunately, Solid State Drives (SSDs) don’t fare any better over time (due to their limited lifespan).
Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and destructive – not to mention widespread. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), “11% of businesses reported internet security incidents or breaches” in 2017-18.* Many cyberattacks involve malicious software (malware) that seeks to steal, manipulate or destroy data. The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which affected over 200,000 computers, is a good example of a cyberattack causing data loss.
* 2017-18 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS)
Power failures, surges and brownouts
It’s difficult to avoid power failures, surges and brownouts. A hard drive exposed to a serious power fluctuation (increase or decrease in voltage) can malfunction or have its data corrupted. Although many computer systems are protected by surge suppressors, a hard drive can still be damaged during a sudden power outage if the system doesn’t shut down and reboot properly.
Laptop computers are popular targets for both professional and amateur thieves. In June 2019, “thieves broke into the University of Western Australia and stole an undisclosed number of laptops.” The laptops contained a variety of student data, including tax file numbers (TFNs) and passport numbers.* In another incident, thieves stole computer equipment (and customer data) belonging to Specsavers from a Queensland storage facility in May 2019.**
* IT News, 28 July 2019
** Insight News (Australia’s leading ophthalmic magazine), 26 June 2019
In cases of data loss involving network administration, human error plays a major role. If precautions aren’t taken, data can be permanently lost during Operating System upgrades, system file alterations and registry setting changes. Even powerful data recovery tools can fail to recover and restore the data.
Fire and water damage
Fires, floods and storms have the ability to destroy or damage computer equipment. The Brisbane floods of 2011 wreaked havoc in a number of business precincts, including Milton and the Brisbane CBD. A survey conducted by the CCIQ in February 2011 found that “two in five (affected) businesses had office furniture and equipment” damaged in the floods.*
* Impact of the Queensland floods on business, Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland (CCIQ), February 2011
The way forward
The key to reducing risk is to be proactive. The simplest and cheapest way to avoid data loss is to have adequate backup. Contrary to popular belief, backing up your data needn’t cost the earth. Simple remedies, such as backing up to the cloud or installing a NAS, can be part of a wider 3-2-1 strategy that protects your data.
To help you get started, DC Encompass provides a complimentary risk assessment service that identifies high-level “gaps” and vulnerabilities in your current backup system. The assessment also touches on cybersecurity and Disaster Recovery (DR). To organise an assessment, or to discuss anything IT-related, please call the friendly team at DC Encompass on 1300 002 112 or visit the website.