1  Portable data storage devices and the importance of your data security and backups

Pen drives, memory sticks, portable hard disks, mobiles phones with data storage capabilities, rewritable CDs and DVDs, even laptops and PDAs – all these are very convenient with vast amounts of storage. However, they all share a common feature – they are insecure and vulnerable to being lost or damaged. Please be very careful about what you put on such devices and keep them safe. Always imagine, for every such device you use – what would be the impact if I lost everything on this device? You need a backup plan so that your loss of data isn’t too catastrophic. You can’t use misfortune with such devices as an excuse for not submitting your assignment work. Here are some suggestions for a backup plan:

  •  Save your work to your M: drive periodically, giving it a dated file name so you keep multiple versions (e.g. “Dissertation_version_2pm_9Sep13”). You can access you M: drive over the web (see page 27) to do this remotely, or do it while logged in to a workstation.
  • Give copies of your files periodically to a family member for safe keeping.
  • Email your key files to your own @bolton.ac.uk email account and / or to a family member asking them to keep the file somewhere safe for you
  • Consider signing up for remote storage space on the Internet. For example, www.dropbox.com presently offers 2Gb of free remote storage that will synchronise with your laptop and desktop and can be accessed from any other machine (such as a university workstation PC or Mac) from a web browser. You could keep backups here, and achieve some protection from losing data through damage, fire, theft etc.
  • Never remove a removable storage medium like a memory stick without closing down all applications that might be accessing it. In addition, always use the “Safely Remove Hardware” feature on your computer (in windows, it is on the task bar) before unplugging the device. If you don’t, you can easily corrupt individual files or the whole device.
  • Copy files / folders to your desktop computer or mass storage device at home periodically
  • Don’t put your backup copy in a machine that you think might have corrupted your working copy. It may corrupt your backup in the same way! Just in case, save files from the backup disk onto another medium (or email them as above) before using the backup.

Always think: what’s your backup plan when you lose your files, as you inevitably will some time.

2  Security of personal data and identity fraud

Your university emails and files related to your university course are personal data that you should be very careful to protect. If anyone was able to get in to your university account, at best they might just pry, at worse they could steal or damage your information, or communicate with others while they pretend to be you. They might send malicious messages, perhaps to officials in the University, pretending to be you and seeking to do you harm. This may seem alarmist but it is a real threat and things like this have happened to students.

 Here are some points of advice to avoid falling victim to things like this:

  •  Never write down your university login password. Memorise it. If you think somebody has it, change it.
  • Choose a password that will be hard to guess, e.g. the first letter of the first 8 words of your favourite song followed by your dad’s year of birth.
  • Never let anybody else, not even a family member, use or have your login details.
  • Never let anybody use a computer you are logged in to
  • Log out before you leave the computer, even for a minute.
  • NEVER tell anyone your password, even if they say they are from the university. Nobody who is genuinely employed by the university will ever ask for it.
  • Delete emails that ask for your personal details like login password
  • Follow the advice about only using your @bolton.ac.uk account for university email communications.