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FAIL-SAFE Technology OR Doomed for Failure?

Fail-Safe is a term that we hear a lot of these days. It is a contradiction of terms and offers us our first clue when we try to decipher its true meaning.

Airlines boast about their fail-safe systems with redundant backup systems giving us a sense of security when we fly the friendly skies. But are they really fail-safe?

Just recently I watched a TV show about an airline crash where the so-called fail-safe system had failed. Why? Because the plane had been neglected and not properly serviced by the airline.

So the term fail-safe is really a misnomer, or perhaps could more aptly be described as a public relations gimmick to give us a false sense of security so we will fly more often.

When it comes to computers the same is also true. My recent computer troubles have reminded me of this fact because I had all my bases covered in the event of a disaster… or so I thought.

Obviously I was sadly mistaken, and when it comes to computers I was reminded once again that nothing is really safe and no plan of action is completely fool-proof. We can try our best to minimize a catastrophe, but we can never be absolutely, 100% positively immune.

Case in Point:

I had installed a second hard drive (as I always do) to backup my data, so in the event that my primary windows partition (or hard drive) had become corrupted I could reinstall and not lose my important information.

Even an experienced user such as myself can still screw up, and apparently I did big time. My data had been encrypted with Windows XP EFS and I don’t even remember doing it! Perhaps I had forgotten, or maybe the Trojan asshole who had infected my computer did it.

Nevertheless, when I tried to use the data on a different system it refused to allow me access to my own information! So keep that in mind if you decide to use it.

Which brings me to another matter. How on earth I got the Trojan in the first place is beyond me. I have a network router which has a built-in hardware firewall. I also use F-Secure Internet Security Suite which is a state-of-the-art software including anti-virus, anti-spyware/adware/malware/rootkits, etc.

So what did I do wrong? It’s possible that I visited a site that somehow slipped it in via Java or ActiveX permissions. Or maybe my wife or child opened up an email attachment that they shouldn’t have. Who knows?

But the point is you can never be too careful (or arrogant) when it comes to computer security.

So what’s the bottom line? Probably the only really safe method to protect your data is to back it up regularly onto DVD. (Providing of course the disk hasn’t been scratched, or corrupted, or… you get the picture.) Confused


1. What horror stories of your own can you share with us (because misery loves company ;-) and how did you resolve the problem?

2. What fail-safe methods for backup are you using, and have you considered all of the angles?

3. Do you know how to break EFS encryption or is it truly FAIL-SAFE?

Written June 12th, 2007 by | 3 Comments | Filed under: Security Tips

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There are 3 Comments so far to “FAIL-SAFE Technology OR Doomed for Failure?”

  1. Bloke,

    I guess I can be counted among the lucky, as I have never had a major meltdown with any ‘puter I’ve owned.

    However, I do have a doozy of a horror story.

    Unknown to me at the time, The Wife had a spreadsheet saved in her documents with every shred of personal information you could think of on it, broken down by person and/or account. Social Security numbers for the entire family, passwords to every account both online and off, account numbers, etc, etc, etc. And wouldnt you know it? The house was robbed and said information was cast to the wind.

    Fast forward two years later, and we are still dealing with this in the abstract. Yes, we did suffer through identity theft, and the six months after the theft were a nightmare, but we acted fast, and averted most of the headaches. Most of the credit has to go to our financial planner. She tap danced like a barefoot Gregory Hines on a football field-sized George Foreman grill, but staved off the majority of the damage.

    The Wife had thought if the spreadsheet was password protected, nobody could get in. I’m just glad she immediately confessed after seeing the machine missing.

    As far as failsafe methods for backup, are there really any that are failsafe? Pictures and music go on their own discs which are then vacuum sealed, and a second hard drive is installed to back up data. That’s pretty much about it.

    I had no idea what Windows XP EFS was until this post. Then again, I’m a litle computer illiterate once you move beyond the actual operation of said computer.

    Thanks for the post, Bloke, and welcome back.

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  2. OMG! Thankfully I’ve never suffered from identity theft and it must be a horrible experience. It’s also a reason why I never put any personal information like that on my ‘puter. I don’t even install Windows with my real name just in case.

    Thanks for sharing that with us Seiche and let’s hope that you never have go through something that ever again. Cheers!

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  3. It is every useful site i got more information. I guess I can be counted among the lucky, as I have never had a major meltdown with any ‘puter I’ve owned. Thanks and let’s hope that you never have go through something that ever again

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