Don’t Protect Your Valuable Photos the Way Grandpa Did

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “Don’t Protect Your Valuable Photos the Way Grandpa Did”, In Cyber Defense, 7 Mar. 2017, Web,

Commentary By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for
 In Cyber Defense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Today, most people take many more digital photos of family, friends and vacations than previous generations did with film cameras. In fact, the ease of use and the low cost of digital photography consigned Kodak, Fuji and Polaroid cameras and film to the museums of 20th century technology.

For example, Polaroid stopped manufacturing its instant film in 2008, leaving this Waltham, Massachusetts, manufacturer with just 150 employees. Thirty years earlier, Polaroid was an iconic company with a “peak” global employment of nearly 21,000 employees.

Today, lots of people have never heard of Polaroid. But their valuable digital pictures often receive the same poor level of protection that an album or scrapbook full of Polaroid or Kodak prints used to provide – not much.

Many people born in the 1960s and 1970s could never imagine storing pictures on a thumb drive, DVD or even a CD.

In a digital world, we need better protection for our valuable photos and other documents because technology is always changing. The 3.5 disk might have been a nice improvement over a 5.25 floppy disk, but today, many computers don’t even have a disk drive.

Technology Changes Rendered Some Familiar Devices Obsolete

Think of that rapidly deteriorating album of black and white photos your grandfather gave you. The negatives of those pictures disappeared long ago. It might be a good idea to convert those album photographs to JPG files for later use. And those old 35 mm slides you used to project onto a screen at home to bore your neighbors? It’s not easy to find a working projector today, much less a new one.

Some people paid to have their slides transferred to VHS tapes and then they threw away the slides. But it’s hard to play VHS tapes these days.

Just as you should “never put all your eggs in one basket,” you should never store valuable digital files in just one place.

Never Save Digital Files in One Place

If you had a one-of-a-kind item, you would want to protect it. The cost to reconstruct PowerPoint programs or Word documents from a damaged laptop is extremely intensive in terms of man-hours. The cost often exceeds the cost of the laptop.

Yet, it’s surprising how many people save their cherished photos and documents only on their laptops or desktop devices. That computer could become infected with a virus or, worse, ransomware could attack it. If someone steals your laptop, those cherished family photos are gone forever.

Many Security Programs Can Save Your Photos

There are multiple solutions to the issue of saving digital images. Which solution is best for you depends on your situation.

For example, there are many types of software backup programs. Some programs save their files to an off-site cloud server.

Some computer owners save their photos on a thumb drive or on an external hard drive. They can be unplugged and should be stored separately from your computer so a virus or ransomware attack on your device will not affect them. These devices enhance your protection.

Another form of security can be as simple as having a friend or business colleague hold an encrypted hard drive of your data, with you repeating the favor for that person. If one or both laptops are lost by theft or destroyed in a fire, neither of you will lose your data. This is inexpensive security that saves you the cost of a cloud backup.

Federal organizations are working hard to protect the public from cybercrimes, but we also must take some responsibility for our own protection. By taking some extra time to protect your images and other digital files, you’ll enjoy greater peace of mind knowing your files are protected.

The inspiration for this and several future articles came from a meeting at the US Secret Service (USSS), Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF) in Las Vegas. Future articles will discuss concepts and actions to counter ransomware and the experiences of individuals and businesses.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.

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