IT Security BS Degree Completed, Now What?

Yes, I finally finished my BS degree in IT Security a few months ago (little late with the message, I know). I feel that I learned more about IT Security related topics in the past few months due to already being in the IT Security position at work so the last few classes were somewhat easy. My last course was Linux as I wrote about before so I've been concentrating on learning as much about Linux security as time will allow during work. We have a few Linux devices here but I've mostly been learning penetration testing and vulnerability scanning with the help of Kali Linux (formerly known as Backtrack). I've been successful on a couple of social engineering attacks on a lab network and just making sure I do what I can to be ready to do some real testing on our network when appropriate. I see how even the good hackers can get in trouble, if you do not know what you are doing, it is very easy to take down a network, PC or server. I'll post more soon with maybe an example of some of the tricks I've learned. 

Hard drive dead, no backup!

Most of you know that this blog discusses computer related topics such as troubleshooting, virus protection and system recovery. There are more topics as well and in the system recovery category, I guess I should discuss more on hard drive backups. About two weeks ago, my 1TB hard drive died and I was unable to recover all my data (more on this in a minute). I had no recent backup stored somewhere else so I had to realize that I had lost that data forever unless I were to pay for a data recovery company to attempt to recover my data for me but those places are usually very expensive. After thinking about that option for a few days, I realized that 99% of my data was not critical to begin with so I began to relax. My wife on the other hand realized the fact that most of our recent pictures of our family had been lost because she was copying them to my hard drive.Being in the IT industry for over 10 years now, you would think I would know to back up my data on a regular basis. Truth is, I do know it, but was just lazy enough to think it would not happen to me. Anyway......I learned my lesson.

So, after she told me that, I decided to attempt to recover the data. I hooked up my hard drive with an external USB connector that allowed to me to see some of the data but not all of it. I recovered most of the pictures that she saved but the rest of the hard drive was corrupt. She is happy and now I will discuss what I should have done from the start:

1) Backup data regularly! This is essential for critical data such as financial and personal documents. There are multiple ways to backup data and for the sake time, I would recommend for starters, just use an external USB hard drive. 

2) Backup your backup data regularly!  What does this mean? It basically means to keep multiple hard drive backups. Why, because that shiny new external drive that you just purchased could go bad at any time too. So the best way to keep your data safe is to have multiple backups available.

3) Take advantage of free online hard drive backup options.  There are multiple online backup sites these days so I will just recommend a few that I have heard of that again are FREE up to a certain amount of data. If you want to back up a huge chunk of hard drive data, you will have to cough up some cash to do so with these sites. 

 ***Warning*** Never use an online site to backup certain critical data if you do not feel comfortable that your data will be safe or not. (Most) of these companies do encrypt the data that they backup but it is online and using their storage servers so just be careful on what you decide to backup. A website that I would recommend is Sugarsync. They accomplish the following:

It will automatically synchronize/backup your documents and has the security features below:
- Files are transmitted encrypted (128 bit AES) via SSL using a once only key.
- At the SugarSync end they are stored encrypted on one server and the keys stored on another.
- The keys are random and not generated from email addresses.
- Keys are accessible to some SugarSync employees, hence also files could be provided by SugarSync in response to a court order or search warrant.
- There is no encryption key stored on your computer.
You just select folders to be synced using check boxes and exclude sub folders not to be synced. For those wanting a special folder like Dropbox (another popular option), SugarSync also provides one called Magic Briefcase and there is a non-synced Web Archive.

In the end, Dell replaced my hard drive under warranty since it was less than 3 years old, but recovering all of my data would have cost me anywhere between $300-$2,000 depending on how bad the condition of the drive is. 

What do you use for data backups? Would you consider using an online backup solution? 

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