One of the security best practices is to back up your data regularly. This is sound advice as it helps mitigate the damages from many different threats. Lots of people think of data loss when they think of viruses, but very few viruses actually tried to cause data loss. There have been a few that encrypt data in an attempt to extort ransom money so the user can get their data back, but this is relatively rare. Today, most of the threats are not about destroying data, they want to collect your data so they can steal your money or identity. Still, backing up your data may help reduce losses if you are wit with some malicious programs.
What else causes data loss? Sometimes improperly configured antivirus products themselves cause data loss. A couple of years ago one of the largest antivirus vendors in the world had a false positive problem that deleted many Microsoft office files. False positives happen to all of us from time to time, but files should be quarantined so that if it is a false positive the data can be recovered. The product in question was revised to make quarantine the default setting after so many of their customers who did not perform proper backups lost a lot of data.
Fingers are high up on the list. Did you ever accidentally delete something and not have a back up?
Hard drive failures can also cause massive data loss. A recent event that our own Aryeh Goretsky brought to my attention is what made me decide to write this blog entry. Hard drive failures are typically fairly rare, but there is a biggie out there now.
It seems that Seagate has released droves of 1 terabyte hard drives that have a problem causing them to die. Having good backups may be the only way to recover your data without spending a few thousand dollars in such a situation.
There are about 18 pages of comments on a Seagate forum (as of this writing). The drives may be working fine for 3 months and then die instantly.
Below are a few links about the issue. The last link is the Seagate forum I mentioned.
It is unfortunate that Seagate refuses to comment on the situation. Late last year it was discovered that Seagate had shipped about 1,800 brand new drives with malware on them.
If your data is important enough to put on a hard drive, be sure you back it up. There are many threats to your data, and viruses are the least of those threats.
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, We Live Security