Secure Online Backup Can Be an Inexpensive Solution to Costly Data Breaches

I received a notice from my mortgage company that my personal information may have been stolen. They said that a backup tape containing customer information had been lost and they were notifying all affected customers in case their information was used in an identity theft. To help me protect my credit, they paid for a credit monitoring service that I could use for one year. I occasionally hear about data similar data breaches, but this is the first time my data was involved.

The letter from the mortgage company went on to explain that they create regular backup tapes of important data and the tapes are transported to a secure offsite storage facility. In this case, one or more of the backup tapes were lost in transit. My first thought was, "why weren't they encrypting the backup data". If they were encrypting the data on the backup tapes, then there would be no need to go through the expense and embarrassment of having to notify thousands, if not millions of customers because no data would have been exposed. And what if the data was actually used for identity theft; I suppose some very expensive remedies and lawsuits would be forthcoming. Thinking back to my first job out of college when I worked as a systems programmer in a bank data center; we didn't encrypt our backup tapes either, but that was in the 1980's.

Fast-forward twenty years--encryption technology is widely available, affordable, efficient, and very secure. There is no good excuse for sending data offsite in plain-text form. Many of the long-time IT operations are probably operating pretty-much the same way that we did it back at the bank; at the end of nightly processing, copy the databases out to tape and put them in cases to be transported to the offsite storage location. Another factor may be pure ignorance on the part of small and medium sized organizations that don't have professional IT staff. In any case, these companies are probably feeling pretty good about the fact that they are doing regular backups and storing the data off-site.

The problem is getting to be more critical than ever because companies are storing more data on computers and retaining the data for longer periods of time. That trend will certainly continue. If large and small IT operations don't improve their backup methods with encryption, then the frequency and volume of data breaches related to mishandled backup data will increase also.

One very simple solution that solves the problem is secure online backup services. With online backup, there is no tape to get lost, and the secure online backup services encrypt the data before it leaves your computers and the backup data remains encrypted at all times. Although backup tapes can be encrypted, it is much easier to skip the tapes and the transportation, and just backup the data straight to an online backup service. In almost every case, online backup services are a much less expensive offsite backup solutions than tapes and other media.

All online backup services are not the same. You can search the Internet for professional and secure online backup services and find quite a few that worth considering. I also advise you to read this article: SSL is Not Enough Security for Online Backup. When you consider the cost to purchase and maintain backup hardware and media, and then add in the IT operational costs, transportation, and software; secure online backup services are clearly an inexpensive solution to offsite backup of sensitive information with very low exposure to data breaches.


Anonymous said...

We are copying backup data over the network to other locations within our company. This has been a fabulous advantage over sending the tapes for remote storage. I agree 100% with this article.

Anonymous said...

Just be aware that tapes can't always be restored. I thought I was getting good backups on tape until I tried to restore some files. The tape was unreadable. Tapes are not as reliable as you may believe. I will never depend on tapes as my only backup again. Online backup is good backup for your backup tapes.