Chances are, when it comes to keeping your data safe, you aren't doing many of the things that you should. In fact, most of us don't do the good data hygiene things we should. Here's a short list of three essential things you need to be doing if you are not already.I'm not a fan of long lists of complicated resolutions. Make things too complicated and people are expectedly not going to do them. Here are three practices that even the most lazy among us can employ - and be much safer and more resilient for the effort.
Password Management: If the Gawker breach has reminded us of anything, it's that we can't rely on one or two passwords to protect our accounts. With a password required to do nearly anything on the web, most of us are (if we are doing the right thing) managing dozens if not hundreds of passwords. That's a chore.
Actually, there's no way to track it in your head, that's why it's a great idea to let a password manager track it for you. My primary systems are a Mac Pro desktop and a MacBook Air. To keep my accounts straight I use 1Password from Agile Web Solutions. Works great, and helps to generate relatively strong and random passwords. 1Password also has basic form filling capabilities. I can't speak for the Windows version, but if it's anywhere nearly as helpful as the Mac OS X version, it's worth a look.
Aside from using unique passwords, it's also a good idea to use multiple usernames. If you use the same username at every site you use, you are giving attackers half of puzzle they need.
If you have a password manager that you think gets the job done exceptionally well for you, or one that's failed you miserably, please share your experience with us below.
Encryption: If you lose your notebook, or it's stolen - and it's not encrypted you are in significant trouble. Assuming - and this is a big assumption - that there are no critical work files on your drive - you are still at significant risk to identity theft, having your bank and brokerage accounts cleared, credit cards maxed, and an unlimited amount of other bad potentialities. If the full volume isn't encrypted any snoop has access to every website you've visited, username and password you used, as well as every document you stored and application you use. That's enough information to become you in about 5 minutes.
Many major operating systems today come equipped with full disk encryption utilities. I use FileVault with OS X. If your OS doesn't have a utility, consider TrueCrypt.
Backup: It wasn't always technologically as easy (or cheap) as it is today to back up your data. Tape drives would too often fail, Zip drives were expensive and (to me) inconvenient. Today, I back up often. I use a backup utility SuperDuper! In addition to Time Machine for local storage. I also use an online service to backup my critical (and encrypted) files so I have an offsite copy. Having an offsite backup not only protects you from a hard drive blowout - but also from fire, flood, burglary and other physical disasters. It's so easy to backup files today that there's really no excuse not to have several copies of your irreplaceable files.
These three practices advice aren't rocket science, and it's not the longest or sexiest IT security resolution list you'll probably see this week. That's the point: because if you are not doing these three things already, it's time you get doing so.
For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.