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Take Control of Security for Mac Users, Chapter 10: Prevent Data Loss and Theft

This article is a pre-release chapter in the upcoming “Take Control of Security for Mac Users,” by Joe Kissell, scheduled for public release later in 2015. Apart from Chapter 1: Introducing Mac Security, and Chapter 2: Learn Security Basics, these chapters are available only to TidBITS members; see “Take Control of Security for Mac Users” Streaming in TidBITS for details.

Chapter 10: Prevent Data Loss and Theft

Most of the topics in this book address ways of protecting your data in one fashion or another. For example, you want to keep people from breaking into your accounts, from sniffing your Wi-Fi signals, and from using malware to collect private information. But I haven’t yet addressed two key pieces of data security—preventing loss and theft of your data while it’s stored on your Mac.

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “loss” and “theft” here:

  • Data loss is when you no longer have access to your own data. For example, a file you need (or a portion of a file) disappears from your disk, or is overwritten or damaged in such a way that you can no longer read it. The data is just gone—it doesn’t exist anymore.
  • Data theft is when someone else gets access to your data illicitly. A curious thing about data theft is that—unlike with theft of physical objects—you usually still have your data after it’s been stolen! But the point is, it’s no longer under your exclusive control.

The way to prevent data loss is to have excellent backups. That way, no matter what catastrophe might wipe out data on your disk, it isn’t truly lost—you have a copy that you can restore easily. Backups are one of the most crucial security measures you can take—they’re a form of insurance. Just as you insure your home and your car so that, if they were to suffer theft or damage, you can put them right again, you insure your data with good backups.

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