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I saw this question on Security.SE and it got me thinking about my way of backing-up my data.

The way I do it is by storing my most important data (including kind of personal things) on a folder on my hard-drive which is then synced to my Google Drive account with the help of Google's application. This enables me to both back-up my data and sync it across all my desktops/laptops, therefore making it accessible no matter which device I'm using.

But here's the problem: the syncing part is automatic and can not be disabled. This means that, if I ever for some reason get infected with ransomware, it will encrypt my files (they're technically stored on the hard-drive) and then replace them on the cloud.

My question is: how do I protect myself against this possible situation?


I thought about 2 candidate solutions:

  • store the data on an external hard-drive as well. Maybe re-sync it with what's on the computer once every month or something like that. The problem with this is the big redudancy (copy of a copy of a copy...) and the fact that you can easily forget to re-sync them.
  • if the infection does happen one day, simply get the data back from another desktop/laptop which still has the originals (by killing its internet connection at startup). The problem with this is that you can easily find yourself in the situation when your other computers have very out-of-date files.

Are there any more effective ways of doing this?

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Backups, by definition, should be offline, offshore and incremental with a reasonable backup window, so if you notice that you lost a file (not only cause a ransomware but also by human error) AFTER the last backup you can go back to a previous backup set and restore it before corruption/encryption/accidental deletion/etc. You also need to keep you backups physical disconnected from the PC that you are backing up when not strictly required, because a ransomware can encrypt them if it have write access to them.

Some practical way to do it in a domestic environment are:

  • if you use a cloud backup ensure that it support file versioning, so you can restore a previous version of a file if needed (also check if you can do it massively, discover that you must to do file-by-file when you need to restore 100k files can be a pain...)

  • If you use a USB device use an incremental backup software that make you able to speed up backing up only the files that was changed by last backup. You can also use 2+ USB drives and rotate them, so if one is damaged by a ransomware you have another physical copy to restore (maybe old but better than nothing)

Lots of other solution are available, but they depends on you personal needs and your budget.

In a domestic environment, if you have small amount of important data that don't changes often, you can also use optical supports (CD/DVD/BluRay) that can't be directly overwritten by a malicious software (even RW supports need a format process before).

  • For incremental backups, my initial thought was some sort of source-code-version-control-tool, but it doesn't fit well due to the nature of the files (which are mostly binary, not text). I'll do a little research to see if and what other software tools exist specifically for this type of task. Thanks for your answer. – Radu Murzea Apr 16 '16 at 10:52
  • I currently using duplicity [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duplicity_%28software%29] for incremental backups, it's for linux and OSX but looks like that it's also available for Windows with Cygwin, it support lots of protocols for source/destination (local files/ssh/rsync/ftp/etc) of the backup and GPG encryption for the backup set. – Tsumi Apr 16 '16 at 11:08
  • Another tool is rdiff-backup nongnu.org/rdiff-backup , that do a "reverse incremental backup" (last copy is the full copy, than keep differences for old versions). It's nice because you can delete old version without never recreate the full backup and the restore of last version is quick (no need to apply diff), but I dropped it because is quite slow if you need to backup a large number of small files. – Tsumi Apr 16 '16 at 11:22

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