The case for backing up online content was made stronger recently, after Deb Fallows – wife of James Fallows, a writer at the Atlantic – had her entire Google archive deleted by a hacker. When most people have their email accounts compromised, they are at risk from someone trying to use their identity or just spread spam emails. But in the case of Mrs Fallows, once the hacker hijacked her email account they not only stole her identity and tried to phish for money from her contacts, but also deleted everything in it.
Over 4 gigabytes of correspondence and photos, attachments etc spanning six years were deleted from her Inbox, Archives, Spam and even Trash folders. In his article on the Atlantic, James Fallows wrote how his wife had lost everything she had stored in the cloud that was linked to her Google account:
“All the notes, interviews, recollections, and attached photos from our years of traveling through China. All the correspondence with and about her father in the last years of his life. The planning for our sons’ weddings; the exchanges she’d had with subjects, editors, and readers of her recent book; the accounting information for her projects; the travel arrangements and appointments she had for tomorrow and next week and next month; much of the incidental-expense data for the income-tax return I was about to file—all of this had been erased. It had not just been put in the “Trash” folder but permanently deleted.”
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the cloud, if someone is able to breach your password, then anything related to an account can be stolen or deleted. There are plenty of backup solutions available, however most of them are also cloud-based so it’s just as vulnerable and still held by a third-party. Anyone serious about safeguarding their data in the event of loss should make sure they backup to a secure store on their own machine(s) to cover eventualities such as the one Deb Fallow experienced. We don’t back up gmail right now but for peace of mind when it comes to backing up Facebook & Twitter accounts be sure to use SocialSafe.