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What are the main causes of data loss in 2021?

Apr 28, 2021

Data loss. Two words that no one wants to hear. Our data is precious to us, sometimes, if we’re not careful it’s irreplaceable. Think about what our phones and laptops hold: our latest work, our personal information, emails, photographs and our studies – this is our entire digital world. Yet, instances of data loss happen every single day.

What actually causes data loss in this modern world? This article aims to find out what the main causes of data loss are in 2021, and most importantly, what you can do to prevent this from happening to you!

Malware, Ransomware and Phishing Attacks

We can never be too complacent when it comes to cybersecurity matters. In our modern world, malware, ransomware and phishing attacks are extremely common. Recent statistics show that ransomware attacks have recently increased by 130%.

Ransomware is especially nasty, as it doesn’t destroy your data, instead it encrypts it in such a way that makes it impossible to decrypt. If your computer is infected with ransomware, all your files are still there, but they’ve been masked with complete and utter gibberish. The only way to restore these files back to their original state is to pay the ransom, usually in Bitcoin or other form of cryptocurrency.

By paying this ransom, you’re funding these hackers to continue their criminal endeavours. The only other way to restore your files after a ransomware attack is to restore from a recent backup.

Other malware, or more traditional computer viruses are just as common. These malicious pieces of software also pose a risk to mobile phones, in April 2021, a widespread text message scam affecting Android phones in the UK prompted users to install an app posing as a delivery tracking service, but it actually contained malware designed to steal your personal data.

Whilst malware and phishing don’t directly causes data loss, they’re extremely distressing and cause a lot of unnecessary hassle.

Some malware is capable of damaging your device or operating system, meaning that you will not be able to turn your phone or computer on. A famous example of this is the MEMZ Virus for Windows 10, which does warn you 3-4 times that it will destroy your computer, so it’s safe to say this was intended as a joke for professionals to use in a safe virtual environment. This particular virus will actually damage the Master Boot Record, meaning you’ll have to format the drive and reinstall your operating system, losing all your files in the process.

So here’s a quick tip – don’t ever click on links that make you suspicious, always verify the source. It’s highly unlikely that legitimate companies will send you links that you weren’t expecting. So, ask yourself: are you expecting this email/text message? If no, then it’s quite likely a scam.

Accidental Damage

Data loss due to accidental damage is more common than you may think. Something as simple as spilling your coffee on your desk or dropping your phone on the pavement can result in data loss.

For the past year, the majority of us have been working from home in extremely unusual circumstances. With schools also closed, many professionals have been forced to juggle working from home, home-schooling, child care and running a household from their dining table. In moments of distraction, it’s easy for accidents to happen.

During the lockdowns in the UK when the majority of shops and businesses were closed, computer repair businesses were allowed to stay open and operate in order to meet the increased demand from remote workers.

As humans we all make mistakes and there’s nothing we can do to change that, we our imperfect by our very definition! Knowing this, it makes it all the more important that we take regular, automated backups of our important work, photos, data to avoid the potential hassle and heartbreak in the future.

Read more: Why do Hard Drives Fail?

Device Damage caused by Heat

Another side effect of working from home during the lockdowns is that our computers and other devices are in use for longer periods of time, resulting in the mechanical and electrical components working harder and producing more excess heat.

Heat is generally bad for computer systems, they need cooling, fans and airflow in order to operate properly. Without active cooling, most computers would grind to a halt before automatically shutting down for safety reasons!

Hard drives are also susceptible to heat damage.

If your hard drive’s temperature is too high then you will experience noticeable performance issues, such as:

  • Files taking longer than usual to open
  • Installed programmes taking a long time to fully load
  • Your device takes a long time to awaken from ‘sleep’ or ‘standby’ mode
  • Your device feels unresponsive, or you experience input lag when typing, navigating the web or playing games
  • You can feel excessive heat coming from the device
  • The computer’s fans are spinning louder than they usually do

Of course, you can take steps to provide immediate cooling by shutting the device off, placing it on a raised stand or cooling pad (for laptops) or removing any protective case (for phones), but long-term, excessive heat will damage the hard drive and other components inside.

To avoid this happening, monitor the temperature of your computer or phone and take reasonable steps to keep them cool:

  • Reduce the ambient temperature in your room
  • Improve the airflow around the device
  • Remove any dust, keeping fans, vents and exhausts as clean as possible

Read more: How to keep your hard drive cool

Software Faults

Another main reason for data loss in 2021 is software faults that result in corrupted files and/or the need to completely format the device, resulting in total deletion of every file.

Software faults may occur with the hardware manufacturer (the firmware) or the software provider, which could include the operating system or some other piece of software.

How to protect yourself from data loss in 2021

The best way to protect yourself from the pain, hassle and heartbreak of losing data is to… wait for it…

Take regular backups.

Yes, it’s that simple, but so easily overlooked.

You should aim to have 3 versions of your data:

  1. The working copy – this is the version that you actively work on and make changes to
  2. The Cloud copy – this copy is stored in the cloud, using your preferred storage provider (Google Drive, Microsoft 365, DropBox, iCloud, etc)
  3. The offline copy – this copy is stored on an external device (not the drive inside your computer) and is only accessed for the purpose of having a backup

You should not rely entirely on a NAS or RAID system for backing up your data, as it doesn’t protect you against technological failure, natural disasters, power surges or other extreme events that can cause severe data loss.

Have you lost data?

If you’re worried about data loss, whatever the reason, time is of the essence. Hard drive data recovery is a delicate process. The sooner you act, the higher than chances of recovery are. It’s important that you contact our data recovery specialists as soon as possible for the best possible chance of recovery.

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