TL;DR – Keep copies of your system image and vital files completely offline.
So today I’m going to talk about something easy to do with computers and comic books, but not so easy to pull of in real life.
I’ve been using computers a fairly long while, and having to wipe the whole drive clean and reinstall the software at one point was almost a quarterly event. I got in the habit then, and admittedly have fallen out of the habit now, of having a hard drive that held a disk image of JUST the operating system and the crucial application that could get me up and running fast, with all my current active work backed up nightly on a rotating set of zip disks which served as both back up AND version control.
These days my computer doesn’t crash so much and I keep back ups of lots of things in lot of places online, so that particular set of processes has fallen by the way side. Maybe it should be resurrected. The joy of my current back up application? It’s always on doing it’s thing. Apparently that means ransomware can find it. Keeping a pristine disk image with just the operating system and critical applications in safe place with no contact with the internet would certainly come in handy again. I might even go back to saving active files to rotating disks that get wiped down to the zeros regularly. I’ll have to come up with something to get over my USB drive phobia. I miss floppies and CDs. At least they didn’t have firmware to worry about!
For making that disk image, MacOS has Disk Utility, but I have to make a fond shout out to Carbon Copy Cloner. Windows has Storage Spaces. Linux has dd. None of these work great for when you have a large number of computers that need to wiped and pushed clean images regularly. The answer used to be Ghost, now there are decent open source tools like Clonezilla that are worth giving a try.
Museum exhibits, retail stores, academic computer centers… for all these places best practices call for having a clean disk image that gets to pushed to terminals on a regular basis. I really wish I had an real-world image from 2015 squirreled away right now. Marvel, can you get on that?