Preparing Electronically for a Disaster

Since the U.S. is facing both an active hurricane and fire season this year, it feels timely to discuss what we can do to prepare electronically for a physical disaster. We all have a file drawer that contains hard copies of our sensitive documents: birth certificates, social security cards, passports, tax documents, and maybe even written passwords to sensitive accounts. Losing your only copies of official documents in a hurricane or fire will only add to the stress of a difficult situation. So, when you are preparing your bug out bag and bottled water, take the time to prepare digitally.

Apply Your Ransomware Preparation Knowledge

While a natural disaster isn’t a malicious attack perpetrated by a hacker, it can have the same effects. It’s helpful to think about preparing for a natural disaster in the same way we prepare for ransomware. One of the most important things you can do is back up your files regularly. If you end up locked out of your files, you can revert to your most recent copies.

Unfortunately, ransomware is more frequently becoming a two-pronged attack. In addition to locking up files, hackers are also threatening to release them. Therefore, it’s important to store your digital official documents securely, especially those that could be used in identity fraud.

Simple Ways to Prepare

There are some quick and easy things we can do digitally to prepare for an emergency. First, digitize your important documents. Take clear digital pictures of both sides of each document and place them on your computer in the same folder, encrypt the folder (password-protect with something like 7-Zip), and save the file to a personal cloud account. Be sure to store the encryption password in a password manager, so you don’t have to remember what it is. And while you’re at it, make sure you have two-factor authentication on your cloud account! When files are stored in the cloud (rather than on a removable hard drive in your home), they are already out of harm’s way in the event you are unable to access your home in the case of a disaster. Also, remember to give the files or a folder a name that will be easily searchable. The last thing you’ll want to do is spend hours hunting for a digital copy of your birth certificate because it wasn’t properly labeled.

Finally, a password manager can help you with those handwritten passwords. It’s the most secure option to protect your accounts. We do not recommend saving usernames and passwords in a document or picture file in the cloud without multilayered protection (a.k.a.two factor authentication).

While we all hope it’s not necessary, the time you spend preparing for a physical disaster is time well spent.

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