Archive for the ‘About Backup’ Category

How BuddyBackup keeps your data secure

September 8, 2014

cyber-security

So, we all heard about that iCloud leak last week. Over one hundred high-profile, celebrity accounts were hacked and their personal photos were leaked. What is perhaps most frustrating is how easily the whole thing could’ve been avoided.

Apple has stated that there were no known security vulnerabilities and no signs of a breach of their systems. After 40 hours of investigation, it was concluded that the hackers targeted individual accounts, guessing passwords until they eventually hit the jackpot.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to use strong passwords (mixed upper case and lower case, include numbers and punctuation, no pets names, etc) and change these regularly. Don’t use a password that you’ve already used in the last 12 months, and don’t use the same password on more than one site.

But, even with the most secure password, if a hacker finds their way in to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or iCloud, they can gain access to your data. Most consumer cloud products don’t encrypt your stored data, or when they do the encryption is not particularly strong.

BuddyBackup is different. We take your privacy very seriously. All of your data is encrypted locally before it even reaches your Buddy’s computer – this means nobody, not even your Buddy, can access your files. If your Buddy’s computer was hacked, your data would be completely unreadable. The full list of encryption we use can be found below.

A copy of your encryption key is kept on the BuddyBackup server. This is so that when you recover a lost account, the keys can be securely sent to you to enable you to recover your files. But these keys are encrypted on your password so that not even members of the BuddyBackup team can access them.

A copy of your password may also be saved securely on our server so that if you forget it, we can send you a reminder. For maximum security though, you can choose to disable this feature and permanently remove your password from the BuddyBackup server.

Integrity and authentication checking is done at all stages of backup and recovery to protect against accidental or malicious corruption of data. In particular we aim to ensure:

  • A Buddy cannot send your encrypted data to someone other than you
  • A Buddy cannot maliciously send you tampered backups when you are restoring data
  • You know the files you receive are really from your Buddies, and no one else.

The technical stuff

  • AES – 256 keys for file data. Certified by the US NSA for use with classified information. Separate AES keys for file contents and file names.
  • RSA – 2048 Public Keys for authentication – the same technology used by SSL on websites
  • SSL (TLS) encryption between client and BuddyBackup servers
  •  Salsa20 stream cipher used for buddy – buddy communication (note this is in addition to the AES – 256 encryption of files).

 

Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup

Advertisements

Intrusive technology: Is 2014 the year the consumer puts its foot down?

February 3, 2014

Privacy

It’s no secret that technology is evolving at a rapid pace. It gives us an incredible amount of choice, and enables us to do much more with much less. But an increasing number of privacy scandals in the media has prompted consumers to question if they’re actually becoming victims of the technology they can’t live without.

2014 sees us on the edge of a dilemma: is this the year the public puts its foot down and demands more privacy and tighter regulation, or are we OK with giving away our information as long as we get something worthwhile in return?

Towards the end of last year, supermarket giant Tesco announced it would be installing facial recognition screens to its petrol stations that would scan the eyes of queuing customers to distinguish age and gender, as well as monitor customer purchases. Using this information, as well as other contributing factors like time and date, Tesco can tailor the digital ads a customer sees in-store.

A step too far?

Some argue that this is a milestone advance in the way we create and consume advertising. By learning more about us, companies are able to provide us with more relevant information and create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Fair enough. But how much are we willing to give away in this trade-off? There is an entire personal profile of each of us sitting in a big database somewhere, and we have no choice but to trust that companies are using this for our benefit.

Facebook recently admitted they not only track and analyse user clicks, but also their mouse movements, in order to create the most intuitive on-screen experience. And although Google maintain that they have always operated transparently, it’s only recently that the intrusive nature of their email scanning has fully entered the public domain. Even though these internet giants state they don’t use “sensitive” information for advertising, this still seems like a step too far. We’re nearing ever closer to the line between justified market research, to an invasion of privacy, to just downright creepy. The problem is: who decides where that line is? Google’s mantra is “don’t be evil”, which seems noble enough. But why do they get to decide? People are starting to make their own minds up on the matter.

The backlash is imminent

Figures from Databarracks’ 2013 Data Health Check show that nearly two thirds (64%) of UK organisations have started restricting employee use of cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud for fears of security issues, and it’s just a matter of time before consumers start regulating their personal use too.

The recent increase in media attention on the subject of privacy has made us more aware of the risks of sharing information online. At BuddyBackup, we tend to hear from a lot of people who feel much more comfortable sharing their data with family or friends, or setting up their own system, rather than relying on a third party service.  Even so, the most common questions we receive are about how we handle data and what information we need to hold in order to be able to connect one Buddy to another. Consumers are becoming more proactive than ever in restricting what companies can share, as well as backing up and encrypting what is stored on personal devices.

While we can control what we share online for the most part, intrusive technologies like facial recognition and email scanning can’t be opted out of, unless the service is boycotted completely. Consumers don’t want to sacrifice personal information for good service – companies either have to increase transparency of the way they collect and use our data, or face the imminent backlash of the more privacy-savvy customer in 2014.

Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup

4G: What will it allow us to do?

October 14, 2013

Image

It’s hard to believe that we’ve now had 3G mobile internet in the UK for a decade. While coverage has massively improved since those early days it has still never quite lived up to its initial promise, and even now speeds are very often disappointing with 3G connections rarely exceeding 2-3Mb even in areas with strong signal. 

In 2013 that’s pretty disappointing, so it’s good news that 4G has finally arrived. The next gen mobile data standard offers a significantly better performance, with real world speeds capable of more than 20Mb (and yes, we’ve actually seen this).

Having a mobile connection that’s faster than many of us get from a fixed line service opens up some interesting possibilities. Here’s just a few of things 4G could enable us to do…

Drop the home broadband

Since 4G offers such a fast connection it opens up the possibility of moving away from a traditional fixed line broadband service.

This could have several advantages. Being portable, you could take your broadband with you wherever you go, not only use it at home. It also means you would no longer need to pay for a landline, something that many of us only keep because it’s required for broadband.

And in some areas 4G may even be faster than the services offered by BT’s links.

The two caveats are coverage (which is limited right now, but 4G should be available to 98% of the population by 2017 according to network targets) and the cost. Presently 4G remains quite expensive (£12.99 only gets you a 1GB data limit according to our comparison table), though this should fall as more competitors enter the market.

Work anywhere

The portability of high speed 4G is a major boon to many types of users. For businesses and students it means you can carry on working wherever you go (signal allowing), and anyone who likes to use their mobile internet link for entertainment purposes will find 4G is much better suited to gaming and streaming media.

Stay connected to the cloud

Online backup and file storage services, and cloud apps like Google Docs, rely upon a reliable connection to function. This is fine when you’re at home but it has been problematic over mobile broadband.

4G should improve matters. Obviously, it’s much faster so if you do want to backup or download files from cloud storage on the go you won’t be crawling along with the few megabits that 3G typically provides. That’s especially useful if you’re on a train when the connection can quickly drop off as you move between cell sites.

It’s also important to note that as part of the 4G frequency auction network providers had to agree to meet a minimum level of coverage. In some cases they are committed to supplying an indoor 4G signal to 98% of the UK’s population by 2017. So while 4G may only be available in a few locations right now we should see a huge improvement over the coming years, and eventually you may be able to rely far more upon your mobile broadband when it comes cloud storage.

Better rural broadband

Many people living in rural areas still do not have access to fast, affordable broadband. While there are plans in place to expand the coverage of fibre optic and ADSL services progress has been slow and there are still places in the UK which may be waiting a long time.

4G may be the answer. As the reach of the networks expands outside of major locations it could become available to those of you in the countryside, and will offer a far faster connection than existing ADSL or dial-up options!

 

Author Bio: Matt Powell is the editor for the broadband comparison site Broadband Genie, where you can find the latest broadband deals and information.

No More Excuses…

May 20, 2013

If we’re honest, we can all probably think of a time where we’ve made an excuse for missing a deadline that wasn’t exactly true. These days, however, Buddy Backup has made the time old excuse “my computer crashed” a thing of the past. Its simplistic and reliable approach to data backup means you need never lose a document again.

But just in case you find yourself in need of some extra time on that big project, here are 10 of the more bizarre excuses that have been given to teachers and employers in the past…

“My housemates were doing a weeklong World of Warcraft tournament and used up all the bandwidth, so I couldn’t email the assignment.”

“A refrigerator fell on me.”

“I was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into my convertible.”

“I caught a cold from my puppy.”

“My stepfather was showing off his new gun and shot my computer by accident.”

“My child stuck a mint up his nose and we had to go to A&E to get it removed.”

“I hurt my back chasing a beaver.”

“My brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.”

“I drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.”

“I have a solar powered calculator and it was cloudy.”

Data backup shouldn’t be a sacrifice for students

March 19, 2013

We all know that when you’re a student you have certain priorities. You have no qualms, for example, in living off one Pot Noodle a day in order to keep your weekly Jagerbomb fund looking healthy. Fresh fruit and vegetables are forgone for that new pair of shoes, and the train fare home is much better spent on saving for this summer’s festival tickets.

But while certain financial sacrifices have to be made in order to live the student dream, protecting your uni work doesn’t have to come at a price.

We’ve all been there – you spend weeks writing an assignment (or in some cases staying up until 6am the night before the deadline, pulling your hair out, draining the library of all caffeine…) for the system to suddenly crash and for all your hard work to be lost before your eyes.

University systems are not failsafe and USB drives are easily lost. But protecting your data effectively doesn’t have to cost you the earth. BuddyBackup is a completely free service that allows you and your family and friends to safeguard your important files by saving them to each other’s computers remotely.

And it couldn’t be easier to do. All you and your Buddy need to do is install BuddyBackup on both of your computers. Then, every time either of you edits or saves a new file, BuddyBackup picks up on this change and immediately backs it up to each other’s drive. Don’t worry though; your Buddy isn’t able to see any of your files (and vice versa) as all of the data is encrypted using military-level coding before it’s transferred.

So, now you can go out and spend your student loan without the worry of it coming at the cost of all your hard work.

Student data loss no excuse for missed deadlines

September 5, 2011

Students take note: Data loss won’t wash when it comes to missed deadlines.

For students starting at university for the first time there’s a lot to take on board; living away from home, making new friends, being financially responsible and of course studying for a degree.

Three or more years of hard work is going to be done, most likely, on a laptop. But if that laptop were to crash or get stolen, students could lose all their coursework in one swipe.

The danger is a real one. During the last university year, from September 2010 to July 2011, Greater Manchester police reported a total of a massive 818 computer thefts from students.*

And while students may not be to blame, they shouldn’t expect their tutor to be sympathetic.  UCL’s Science and Technology student handbook 2010-2011 clearly states: “Data loss will not excuse missing a deadline”.

Which is why backing up work is imperative but it needn’t be costly or complicated. BuddyBackup is a free, unlimited, online, backup software for PCs that is ideal for students.

“With so much going on in student’s lives, it can be easy to forget to backup work,” says BuddyBackup Manager, Mark Couvaras. “Yet, if they don’t, they’re putting their degree in jeopardy.

“Once you’ve done an initial backup, you never have to worry about doing it again because BuddyBackup works continuously and automatically backs-up any changes or additions you make to your files,” adds Mark.

BuddyBackup backups your data onto spare disk space on friends’ (or buddies’) computers so that you avoid paying a cloud provider for storage space.

“BuddyBackup is also a greener option because unlike the cloud, it doesn’t require the use of data centres which have a huge energy consumption,” says Mark.

BuddyBackup software applies military-grade encryption to your data before it leaves your PC, which means that only you can see your files.

For added security BuddyBackup defaults to a minimum of two buddies. It wouldn’t be wise to backup solely to housemates, so it’s a good idea to include buddies who are off-campus or friends and family back home.

BuddyBackup is smart software. It regularly checks that your buddies still have your backups. If it discovers a problem, it will automatically backup your files to a different buddy instead. This means you’re safe even if a buddy uninstalls BuddyBackup or has a computer failure.

If you have a disaster, you can easily recover your files by running BuddyBackup from your new computer.

“Most students will take out insurance in case their laptop gets stolen,” says Mark. “And while that can pay for a new computer, no amount of money is going to replace weeks and months of course work. BuddyBackup software is like a free insurance policy for your data.”

* Source Greater Manchester Police (August 2011) – through a Freedom of Information request made by BuddyBackup.

 

 

Bits and bytes and broadband: Part One

May 26, 2010

Ever been confused by broadband speeds? In this two part blog I’m going to try and explain all.

Bits and Pieces

First let’s go over a few terms you’ve probably read or heard about:

  • Kilobits
  • Megabits
  • Gigabits
  • Kilobytes
  • Megabytes
  • Gigabytes
  • Megablobs (OK I made that one up….)

The first thing to say is don’t feel bad about not understanding these unit!

They are confusing, used only for historical reasons and are not even consistently used. Computer scientists, physicists, network & hard drive manufacturers might give you a different definition of some of these units.

This is not your fault, and in fact some companies will actively use this confusion against you.

So let’s try to unravel these units.

The basic units are reasonably easy:

  • A bit is a zero or one

A “bit” is the smallest unit of information in computing. It’s basically a “0” or a “1”, or if you like a “yes” or a “no”. It might sound strange that the whole basis of modern technology is built on so humble a thing, but the reason is because of  the way electronic hardware (i.e . your computer) works. The point is that if you string together enough “yes” and “no’s” you can represent anything (imagine a game of 20 questions, only you have a million goes!).

  • A byte is 8 bits

A “byte” is 8 lots of bits in a row. A byte is roughly enough information to represent a single character of the English language. So “hello” would be 5 bytes (which is 40 bits (5 x 8)).

(I’m glossing over two issues: firstly older computer systems might use different numbers of bits to refer to a “byte” e.g. 6, 7, 8 or 9 bits. Nowadays, it’s almost universally 8 bits. Secondly, characters in other languages might require 2 or more bytes to store).

  • A kilobit is 1000 bits.
  • A kilobyte  is 1000 bytes.

So those are easy. Maths nerds reading this will realise  that a kilobyte is 8 times larger than a kilobit. That’s a commonly repeated pattern you’ll see between “bits” and “bytes”.

(So actually I’m lying here, again. SOME people (Computer Scientists in particular)  actually call a kilobyte 1024 bytes. The reasons for this are highly technical and really just to make life easier for Computer Scientists – thanks guys!

Recently there was a move to try to standardise the “kilobyte” to be 1000 bytes, but the problem is that lots of people still use the old size. You’ll see this issue repeated for Megabytes and Gigabytes – some people say a Megabyte is 1000 kilobytes, others say it is 1024 kilobytes. Read more about it here.

For most cases, the difference is quite small, so don’t worry about it too much.)

For those of you who remember studying the solar system at school, here is a familiar to-scale representation of the sizes of these units:

Relatively speaking, these units (up to the Kilobyte) are still very small. By comparison, a typical JPEG photo would be at least 200 kilobytes.

The next step up is the Megabit and Megabyte.

  • A megabit is 1000 kilobits
  • A megabyte is 1000 kilobytes

And here they are in comparison:

And finally we get to Gigabit and Gigabyte.

  • A Gigabit is 1000 Megabits
  • A Gigabyte is 1000 Megabytes

You can also see the relative size of a typical MP3 and a moderately high quality photo (JPEG).

Note how “kilobits” and “kilobytes” are so small, they don’t even appear on this chart. For modern day computing, the only unit of any useful size is Megabits/Megabytes, and Gigabits/Gigabytes.

That massive orange Jupiter-like blob in the corner is a Gigabyte. A modern decent sized hard drive would be at least 200 Gigabytes so you can imagine how big that would be.

Shortened Names

You’ll often see these units shortened like this:

  • kbps
  • mbps

The first two letters “kb” refer to the unit (kilobits, kilobytes, megabits, megabytes). “ps” stands for “per second”. So, it’s a measurement of how much data can be transferred in 1 second.

Unfortunately, these abbreviations are often used inconsistently, and not clearly.

One issue is how to distinguish between “kilobits” and “bytes”.

Often the convention is to use UPPERCASE “B” to refer to bytes and lowercase “b” to mean bits.

So:

  • KBps means kilobytes per second
  • kbps means kilobits per second
  • MBps means megabytes per second
  • mbps means megabits per second

BUT this  is often not consistently used, particularly in some companies’ marketing material. The rule of thumb is this: if it’s a broadband company talking about internet speeds, they will be referring to megabits and kilobits regardless of whether they use upper or lowercase letters for “mbps”.

Conclusion

  • A bit is the smallest unit of information: a zero or a 1
  • There are 8 bits in a byte
  • Common pattern of each unit is that it’s 1000 times larger than the previous unit (kilo –> mega –> giga)
  • Kilobits/Megabits are 8 times smaller than kilobytes/megabytes
  • Beware of abbreviations: kbps, mbps

In part two I’ll be talking about some of the pitfalls in the way broadband companies report speeds.

Broadband speed is relevant to our product, BuddyBackup, as it determines how quickly you can backup and restore files over the internet.

John Wood

Online and Off-site

May 7, 2010

Data backup is all about making sure you don’t lose stuff if you have a disaster.

The question is, what kind of disaster?

Sure, your computer might just go “pop” and smoke a little, but it might also go “ka-boom” and smoke a LOT. Like this one:

A computer highly damaged and melted by fire

Oops! Good job I had off-site backups...

When it comes to backup, you have to ask yourself exactly what you’re trying to achieve. If you just want to handle to occasional lost file, or Windows crash then actually maybe you don’t need to do anything.

Modern operating systems and applications are much better at dealing with this sort of stuff. For example, you’ve probably noticed that newer versions of Microsoft Word can restore “lost” files, so if your computer crashes and you forgot to save, you might be OK.

Similarly, most modern operating systems use a Recycle Bin, so when you delete files, they’re not immediately gone.

Geeks can even sometimes restore “really” deleted files using special software, and if you’re really serious you can send corrupted hard drives to companies who will try and read the data from them (it’s expensive, mind).

So why bother backing up?

Unfortunately, it’s very much like home insurance. You might go through a lifetime without having a major fire or flood, but that doesn’t mean you won’t buy house insurance (right?). So to me, data backup is the same: it’s the 1 in 100 event; the small percentage of us that have a major disaster such as fire, flood or theft. If your backup strategy doesn’t account for this, then what’s the point?

In the business we talk about “off-site” backups. What this means is making sure that a copy of your data exists away from the place of business. The same principle should apply to home users as well.

In the past (and still present in some cases!), the solution to this was to physically move your backups (which might be on magnetic tape or removable hard drives) to a second location. For example, you’d have someone responsible for taking home the backup tapes at the end of the week.

Of course this requires a lot of diligence, and also, well, a guy to carry tapes around, so is completely inappropriate for use in the home or small businesses.

A more recent solution to this has been “online backup”. With this, your files are delivered over the internet to a third party company, who looks after them for you. You rely on the company to store the files for you, and let you download them when you need them.

Usually you run some software on your PC to manage the backups (BuddyBackup fits into this category), but sometimes it might be a done via a website.

The nice thing about online backup is that it’s much less effort: you’re using the internet for delivery so there is no messing about physically moving stuff. Also, (depending on the quality of the software running on your PC), it can be easier to setup and run.

It’s also often the only viable “online”/”off-site” option home or small office users.

So, when you think about backup, think about what exactly you’re trying to protect against. In this internet age, there are plenty of options for off-site backup that is actually going to survive a real disaster.

BuddyBackup gives you off-site backups for free by saving your files encrypted onto your buddies’ computers.

John Wood