Information in your Personal Computer

Consider the information stored in your personal computer. Do you currently have information stored in your computer that is critical to your personal life? If that information became compromised or lost, what effect would it have on you? 1

My personal computer has the following types of files-

  • Digital copies of important documents (passport, visa, ID cards),
  • Digital copies of financial document (bank statements, bills, tax spreadsheets, budget spreadsheets),
  • School work (assignments, lab observations, research papers, notes, software programs),
  • Photographs of family and friends,
  • Personal journal (notes of thoughts, plans, ideas, dreams, creative writing pieces), and
  • Browser data

Digital copies of important documents which contain personally identifiable information (PII).

Losing these documents is a grave worry if, for some reason, I were to simultaneously lose the physical originals as well. Else, it does not pose much of a risk, as I can always scan them and make more digital copies. However, if these files were compromised I stand to be a target for identity theft. This could cascade into further crimes which would need mean a lot of hassle and trouble with Government agencies (both here in the US, and in India), and the visa consulate. This could affect my legality of living the United States and financial losses that I can’t afford.

Digital copies of financial documents.

Losing all my spreadsheets and financial documents would mean a lot of chaos and confusion and would affect my daily functions. I rely on them heavily to keep track of expenses, for short-term plans, as well as archive documents for reference. Compromise of this data would lead to my personal details of my banking, spending, and savings being exposed and I risk being a victim of identity theft and financial fraud.
School work.

Losing school work would mean loss of all the scholarly information that I’ve spent very many hours putting together to create a personal knowledge bank. Compromise of this work could lead to loss of intellectual property and to being a possible victim of plagiarism. It would affect my academic credibility as well as set me back in my journey of building on my knowledge.

Photographs of family and friends.
I keep a minimal number of objects with me, as a rule, not just in digital format, but also in the physical. Hence, the very few pictures I store are very important to me and their value is priceless.

If these pictures are lost, it will hurt me deeply as memories cannot be recreated. If the pictures are compromised it would violate the privacy of the people in the pictures, including those of children. In both cases, it would affect me negatively and I would always regret not doing enough to safeguard them.

Personal journal.

Losing this would be like losing a bit of myself. I use it for inspiration, for gaining clarity, and to find beauty and make sense of the chaos that everyday life can bring. Having it compromised would leave me very badly shaken as it would be a complete violation of privacy and leave me vulnerable and feeling completely exposed. It would also be a loss of intellectual property, as well as a gold mine for anyone who wanted to use that information as reconnaissance data to social engineer me.

Browser data.

I keep a few essential bookmarks on my browser, as well as store form filling data to avoid the hassle of repeatedly filling in details like name, address, phone number date of birth etc.

Losing this data would be an inconvenience as I don’t remember the exact URLs of some of the bookmarks (which are long and unrelated to the names of the websites). Compromise of browser data can involve loss of PII leading to possible identity theft crimes, providing fodder for social engineering, and gaining access to my accounts which require answering personal questions as a factor of authentication.

Some of the methods I employ to save the data from being lost or compromised are backing up the data on an external hard drive and on my email (akin to a cloud storage), switching from digital copies to physical paper, clearing out browser passwords and stored form data, password protecting files, and constantly reviewing the need for each file and minimizing the collection of accumulated files. I have also considered experimenting with encryption but haven’t gone down that route yet.