You’re going on holiday, leaving your computer and a vast treasure of irreplaceable data behind for a few days. There’s a feeling that you should do something about your HDD, SD cards and Blu-ray data backups, just in case of burglary or worse. What should you do?
What Losing Your Data Could Mean
How much do you value your data? Could you live without the photos, videos, saved games and novels you’ve been working on and hope to finish one day? Or would the loss of these, or perhaps reports for work, university projects, etc., leave you utterly devastated?
It probably would. As such, you should have backups in this day and age, either on a small storage device that you can carry with you anywhere (perhaps even a portable PC solution on a USB flash drive) or in the cloud. And if one cloud doesn’t feel like enough for you, use two.
At this stage, we should point out that whatever steps you take to hide your HDDs, optical discs, USB flash devices, etc., they will probably not be enough to dissuade a determined thief who knows what he or she is looking for.
To this end, it is vital that at best you encrypt (and at worst, apply a password to) your storage devices to avoid data being copied.
Using Simple Hiding Places Around The Home
The idea of hiding your data storage (and any other compact electronic valuables you may own) is to do it in such a way that a regular thief wouldn’t think of looking (by “regular” we mean someone who hasn’t been paid to find a specific item of data).
Think of it this way: small items like an iPod, camera, tablet or laptop computer can be hidden away, so do so in an unlikely place. Remember, those regular burglars are looking for items that they can sell quickly and easily on the black market.
Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities, room-by-room:
The Bathroom: you might wrap a laptop or HDD in a bath towel left in the middle of the pile. There’s little chance of a common burglar entering your property in order to steal your towels!
Smaller devices like a Blu-ray or DVD, or a USB flash device, can be put away in your bathroom cabinet, just as long as you don’t store drugs in there too. Incidentally, don’t use the area behind the panel of your bath. Often a target for thieves.
The Kitchen: stay away from the fridge, as this has been a common target for thieves over the years. After all, if they’re entering your property to steal something expensive, helping themselves to ready-to-eat meals isn’t going to be overreaching too much. We wouldn’t want an intruder to notice your collection of backup USB thumb drives in the egg tray, would we? A better idea in the kitchen is to focus on your pantry. You might put your HDD behind a bag of sugar, for instance, or hide your iPhone in a storage box full of rice (also useful if you’re trying to get it working after being dropped in water!). This can also work with any container that still has its powdery contents, such as instant soup mix, coffee, sugar, etc.
The Living Room: thieves often look behind photos, but they rarely open them up. Optical discs might be stored between the back of the photo and the back of the frame. A piece of hook and loop fastener might also keep your discs safe under a rug. Meanwhile, you may secrete a USB thumb drive in the “soil” of a fake plant. Book cases are a good place to hide discs (within the pages of books) and you might even stick your HDDs behind a few smaller books.
The Bluff: no, it’s not a room that you didn’t know about. Instead, it’s a collection of “fake” hardware items that you leave scattered on a single shelf for the intruder to quickly find, grab, and escape with, but that holds no real value to you. It might be a few USB sticks and an old MP3 player, perhaps an old Android phone (they have many other uses) or a handheld game console.
Unless the intruder knows exactly what they are looking for and has the time to be thorough without being disturbed, these places should be enough to frustrate.
Locked Boxes & Safes
Another tactic is to rely on locked boxes and safes disguised as innocent objects such as light switches or power outlets.
These are a much better idea than a standard locked box or any other kind of safe. It’s better to have a safe that no one knows about, right? After all, the drawback with obvious safes is that if they’re affordable, they are probably light enough to be removed. All the thief requires is access to heavy duty cutting tools to make a mockery of your security.
Ideally, you’ll need something quite compact, although the item of furniture shown below illustrates just what lengths you can go to in order to keep your tech safe.
Positioning of these safes is also important. Don’t place them anywhere near ground floor doors and windows if you can avoid it, as being observed using these safes will be counter-productive.
You can find “fake fitting” safes hidden in power outlets and other common items on Amazon and other online stores.
Off-Site Storage & Cloud Backups
A final option could be to employ the same tactics that have been used in the business world for the past 20 years, which is to store your data off-site to protect against the possibility of theft, fire and other destructive events.
In such a scenario, backup tapes from servers are collected daily and stored in a remote location under strict security conditions, and recycled across a weekly, fortnightly or monthly interval.
Of course, you’re not likely to be able to afford such an arrangement (not least because you probably don’t have a backup tape drive!) so the domestic alternative is to find somewhere safe to store your HDDs or optical backups. Such a location might be a storage facility you already pay for, or the home of a trustworthy friend. If your storage is encrypted, it won’t really matter whether they’re trustworthy or not…
Make Sure You Have A Security System
If you’re concerned about any intrusion into your property, you should already have setup some form of home security system, as well as a means of monitoring the webcam remotely. This might mean you’ve paid for a proprietary security system, but hopefully what you’ve done is built you own. You might do this with an old or dedicated PC; it’s also one of the many projects you can get off the ground using just just a Raspberry Pi.
While you cannot physically stop an intruder with a security camera, you can use it as a deterrent. You can also monitor the behaviour of the intruder in your property using your smartphone.
Finally, make sure your security system is visible, even if it means installing a fake alarm. Don’t forget displaying the obligatory CCTV warnings, either – more than enough to make a thief think twice about choosing your property.
Conclusion: Be Aware Of The Risks!
Whether you have fears for a general intrusion that might result in your electronic hardware being stolen or you’re concerned about specific items of data, you should be aware of the risks and take steps to ensure that backups are made, and other safety precautions are made.
Data can often be irreplaceable, but the hardware usually isn’t. As such, don’t overlook insurance as a means to protect your bank account from the impact of your external HDDs and lightweight computers being stolen. Similarly, do not underestimate the importance of cloud storage.
Do you hide your hardware? Have you been successful, or did thieves find the USB thumb drive you taped to the inside of a lampshade? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.