I haven’t written much about data backups here before, but they are incredibly important. Everyday, run-of-the-mill data loss can range from frustrating to devastating. In the midst of a natural disaster the impact of personal data loss may be compounded as you are trying to deal with much more basic needs. I am proud to be a guest on the In The Rabbit Hole Urban Survival Podcast this week (the episode will air today and can be found here). Aaron and I talked about backing up the documents you may need to have on hand in an emergency, or what I call the “Bugout Backup”. I also mentioned how to store and protect this information with encryption. Our first topic was why having this information is important.
We next discussed what information to back up, and how to organize that information. This information is broken down into four broad categories. The lists provided below may not be complete for your situation, but should give you a framework to begin thinking about building your own bugout backup. The first two items I backup and always have on hand are phone numbers/contact information and a copy of my password manager database. Because of the extreme importance and utility of these two items I address them separately.
Biographical Information: This is the information that proves who you are. Your bugout backup should contain scanned or photographed copies of the following:
- Driver’s license and passport
- Marriage licenses and birth certificates
- Concealed carry permits
- Medical records
- Prescription labels
- VA information
- Pet medical records/vaccination history
Ownership and Financial Information
- Deeds and titles to real estate and automobiles
- Insurance policies, including home/renter’s, auto, and property insurance
- Appraisals/photos of guns, jewelry, and other valuable personal property (for recovery and/or insurance claims)
- Credit reports
- Bank, credit, and retirement account statements
- NFA tax stamps
- Items not covered elsewhere on this list that are imporant in you situation
- Personal information that is irreplaceable.
- Personal photographs
Next, Aaron and I discussed the hardware and software I use to facilitate backups. I maintain three separate backups. The first is on my keychain and is my true bugout backup. Due to space limitations it doesn’t contain all my data, but it does contain all the really important stuff. The flash drive I use for this is the Kingston Data Traveler (128 GB, USB 3.0). The solid aluminum body of this drive makes it robust enough to survive in your pocket. If you demand the utmost in drive protection, check out the Corsair Survivor which comes in sizes up to 256 GB. I don’t personally use this because of size, but I’m quite confident it will survive most anything as the name implies.
The second backup is stored locally, with my computer. I use an SD card for this backup. The SD card I use is called the Transcend JetDrive. This miniature unit fits flush with the side of my MacBook and allows me to run daily backups. If you don’t have an SD card slot another great option is the SanDisk Cruzer Fit. This backup protects against hardware failure, but wouldn’t do much for you if your computer is lost or destroyed.
I also briefly talked about cloud storage, and will shortly begin a series on cloud storage threat models and security. Cloud storage has the advantage of always being available. There are huge security implications in this, however. If you do use a cloud provider use a good, strong password and two-factor authentication.
Finally, Aaron and I talked about software you can use to make this all happen. Backups should be encrypted to the level of the original files or better. This usually means (should mean) AES-128 or 256. If you own a Mac you can full-disk encrypt your flash drive with FileVault. If you are Windows user you can use BitLocker – if it came with your version of Windows. If not, VeraCrypt is your best option. I strongly recommend automating your backups. The less human interaction is required, the better. For creating automated backups of only specific data, I like CryptSync and Cryptomator. For full system images I like Mac’s built in Time Machine, especially when used with the Airport/Time Capsule. For Windows I like Genie9’s Timeline Pro.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Regardless of what system you choose, choose something. Having backups can save you immense frustration, even under favorable circumstances. Have a good, up-to-date backup on your person or in the cloud. I have lost data and don’t wish it on anyone.
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