Theft, computer viruses or even war? – Precaution for paranoids
Call me anxious or paranoid. But I think that I am prepared for any danger which can happen to my few left belongings. How? I will tell you here.
How I already explained in another article our possessions demand quite a lot from us. Therefore, a minimalistic lifestyle is often more liberated and easier. The extreme variant of minimalism as I live it when I travel throughout the world only with hand luggage brings also new problems and sorrows:
It is evident that when I have a house in Germany fully packed with stuff and it can also happen one day that it burns down. And then my property is gone all at once. But it is more probable that I get robbed or stolen by tricksters during my journeys. Even though I haven’t been stolen yet (only my car was once broken open in the alleged safe Holland) although I already visited Favelas and other poor areas at daytime and at night there is still the ongoing risk. One distracted moment, one short nap in the bus and soon all my possessions might be gone at once. In my case minimalism produces a more flexible and relaxed life but on the other hand all remaining thoughts and sorrows focus on a small back on my shoulders. How can I prepare for the worst case scenarios to stay calm anyway? In the following, I will give an exclusive insight into my safety measures.
Level 1: Lock and grid
At home, we all lock our doors. Since the equivalent to my house is a 45-liter hand luggage backpack I lock this one as well. I own the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII which is lockable and has a safety grid inside the fabric. Therefore, even a trickster with a cutting knife cannot take something out of my backpack. Furthermore, the backpack comes with a locking cable so that I can lock it to anything anywhere. This is very practical if I have to go to the toilet and don’t want to take my backpack with me. Or inside a bus or at the airport when I want to take a nap. I just bind my backpack on any fixed bench and I can sleep unworried. When I happen to be in an untrustworthy hotel I additionally have an outer bag protector net in which I can lock my backpack. So, I can leave my backpack with extra protection alone for many hours even in such a dubious location and I don’t have to carry my heavy luggage around while discovering the area. Using my unflashy rain cover for my backpack I can even display my possessions so unsuspicious that I might even lock my backpack to a palm tree at the beach. While potential thieves will probably regard my valuables as washed up dirt I can go swimming without worries. For my backpack lock as well as for the bag protector net I use number locks so that I don’t even need to take a key with me in the water. This is my first defense against harmless thieves.
Level 2: Belt with secret compartment
But what if I become a victim of an armed robbery? Then I have to give my possessions away. Generally, one should not carry to much cash for that reason. But everybody should always carry a little bit cash. Whether you buy some snacks at a store or just for the emergency case of a robbery to quickly be able to satisfy the aggressor and to therefore save your own life. But what if the thief wants my whole backpack and with it all my cash, credit cards and documents? For such cases I have a belt with a secret compartment. Inside I care a copy of my passport and some emergency money in Euro, Dollar and Renminbi. That should help me in emergency to book hotels and flights, to contact my bank and maybe the next German embassy. The belt is made of plastic which lets me keep it on while crossing airport controls. And at least as a man it is unlikely that a criminal asks me to take my pants of. The belt is my emergency insurance and therefore the second level of my security strategy.
Level 3: Encryption
Once the thief has stolen my backpack he also has access to all my digital possessions. That’s why I have encrypted my smartphone as well as my netbook. This should prevent any street robber to get to my data. For that purpose, I use the onboard encryption which any modern Android device should have and I use Windows’ bitlocker for my computer. For Apple devices, there should be similar home-made solutions. Otherwise you might just google for TrueCrypt or equivalent free open source solutions. Sure, if the NSA gets access to my devices it might probably not help anymore. But if the NSA is after me I have other big problems. That’s for the third security level. You should also encrypt whatever you upload into the cloud:
Level 4: The cloud
Of course, I don’t only want to prevent thieves from accessing my data I also still want to be able to access my data after my devices got stolen. But also, if bad accidents happen to my data storage devices or if a computer virus deletes my whole hard drive it should not be lethal to my data. After all my data are my everyday working tools and capital. Devices can be replaced but data often not. Thus, I create a backup of all my data and synchronize it with my cloud. Of course, there are more or less cost efficient and often even free providers. But I use an own server with Seafile as my software foundation. Seafile has the advantage that edited data will be instantly synchronized with the cloud if an internet connection is available. But also, if you don’t know how to administrate your own server there are countless Seafile storage providers. But if you use your own server and are somewhat smart about it you at least can be sure that no one else has access to your data and you are not dependent on Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox and so on. Everybody should have a backup anyway. For me it is the fourth point on my preventive plan.
Level 5: The network
As paranoid as I am I don’t even trust the best server hosting providers when I am concerned about the security of my data. And as my personal experiences show I am not unjustified in my caution. Because there will be always some problems coming up. Whether it’s my own stupidity or because others weren’t careful enough, in case of a total shutdown the root of the failure will be the smallest problem. Therefore, I made up a last, fifth security provision. But this one is unlimitedly scalable. I have built a network of computers which are synchronized to my cloud, too. They serve as locally distributed backups. So, my data are not finally lost even if my netbook and server fail at the same time but they are redundantly secured on those backup computers.
According to a myth the idea of the internet is even based on that decentralized strategy so that in case of a nuclear war communication could be maintained. It might be questionable whether I would still live after a nuclear war or whether the European internet might work as well after a targeted or terror attack on big internet node like the DE-CIX in my hometown Frankfurt. But anyway, it is still smart to have locally distributed backups. Therefore, at least a small and regionally limited war should not endanger my data.
For example, I bought a simple and cheap used netbook and installed all necessary programs on it (e.g. Seafile for the synchronization of my cloud and TeamViewer for remote access). I have configured in a way that it will never shutdown. And even if electricity might be turned off it can even survive for a while with its battery. Additionally, I have plugged in an external hard drive that make a weekly full backup of the data. So, I can even recover data which I accidentally deleted in my cloud system. Of course, I also have encrypted all those devices and I am housing them at a safe place with internet access. This approach I can repeat as often as I want and by doing so increasing my network of backup computers.
With this strategy, my data are protected and my material possessions very good secured against theft. Should I be robbed anyway I might only have a financial damage. But this will be limited due to my few personal belongings I have left. For the worst case I have a small financial cushion and would be taken out for maybe a week or so. International theft insurances are all too expensive and not worth their money if one is a little bit careful on his trips.
Did I miss any risks or do you have some more solutions I didn’t mention? Then please write them below in the comments! Or maybe you think that I am overly paranoid? Then you might share your opinion with us as well :-)