Back In Time for Data Backups on openSUSE | Retrospective

Backup-02

The lack of data security is something that has recently affected some municipal governments in a negative way. Atlanta in 2018 was attacked with a ransomware and demanded $51,000 before they would unlock it. Baltimore was hit a second time this past May [2019]. I am not a security expert but in my non-expert opinion, just keeping regular backups of your data would have prevented needing to spend a ransom to get your data back. It would also help to run openSUSE Linux or one of the many other Linux options on the desktop to reduce the impact of a user induced damage due to wayward link-clicking.

If you are interested in keeping your personal data “safe,” offline backups are an absolute requirement. Relying only on Google Drive, Dropbox, Nextcloud or whatever it may be is just not not adequate. Those are a synchronizing solution and can be a part of your data-safekeeping strategy but not the entirety of it.

I have been using Back In Time as my backup strategy, in this time, I have only had to restore a backup once but that was an elected procedure. Back In Time is great because it is a Qt based application so it looks good in KDE Plasma

Installation

For openSUSE users, getting the software is an easy task. The point and click method can be done here:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/backintime-qt

The more fun and engaging method would be to open a terminal and run:

sudo zypper install backintime-qt

It is, after all, in the main openSUSE repository and not playing in the terminal when the opportunity presents itself is a missed opportunity.

How it has been going

Since this is a retrospective on using Back In Time, you can find more about usage and other options backing up your system hereI am not going to claim that I was 100% disciplined performing weekly backups like I suggested. The sad reality is, I got busy and sometimes it was every other week… I may have forgotten to do it entirely in April… but for the most part, I was pretty good about keeping my system backed up.

Since Back In Time is really quite easy to use it is as simple as connecting a specially designated USB drive into my computer and I start “Back In Time”. Yes, in that order because I don’t I get a rather angry message.

BackInTime 04-Snapshots folder.png

Something else you have to do is either manually or automatically remove old snapshots. I didn’t pay attention and some of the snapshots completed “WITH ERRORS!” I am sharing this as a cautionary tale to pay closer attention to your backup medium, whatever that may be, to ensure you have enough space.

From there, all I would have to do is click the Save Snapshots Icon.

BackInTime 05-Take Snapshot Icon-box

The application will evaluate the last snapshot against your filesystem and create an incremental snapshot. The first snapshot is the most time consuming, the subsequent snapshots don’t take nearly as much time.

BackInTime 01-Main Screen.png

With Back In Time, there is a feature to adjust how many snapshots it keeps. I ultimately decided to have it automatically delete snapshots older than 6 months (26 Weeks). For my purposes, anything older than 6 months is likely useless. I could probably reduce the length of time that I keep. I really just need the data should something catastrophic happen to all the machines that I keep synchronized.  Your requirements may vary, of course.

BackInTime 03-Auto-remove

I have been told that I should do a separate monthly and weekly offline updates but it is my opinion that for my personal usage, weekly is fine. I would also say that if you are responsible for an organization or business data, doing the separate monthly and weekly backups, maybe even daily would be better. I am not a professional here, nor should you take my advice on what is best practice for your organization. I do recommend that you do backups at some interval and find out what is best for you.

Final Thoughts

After fumbling my way through Back In Time a bit, adjusting it’s settings for my purposes, this has proven itself to be a fantastic application I can count on to keep my data “safe.” I can personally attest to the ease of backing up and restoring data. The way I use it isn’t necessarily the best way for you. Back In Time can do a LOT more than the limited way I am using it.

Even if you don’t use Back In Time, find an application that will help you make backups that is easy to do and sustainable enough to stay consistent. There isn’t a single downside to it.

References

Data Back Up | Better to Prevent than to Regret

Back In Time on GitHub

Back In Time Documentation

Back In Time from openSUSE

Atlanta Ransomware Attack from SecurityMagazine.com

Baltimore Ransomware Attack Article

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Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE

Bitwarden Logo

Password managers are all the rage these days, I guess… I haven’t ever been compelled to try as the password manager I have been using, my shoddy memory, has been working alright for me. The reality is, I have a lot more passwords to remember now and for those passwords I don’t use as frequently, I have to guess at it a few times before I get it… and that is just not a good look.

I have heard rave reviews about several different password manager solutions, waited until I heard more about them and was scared off but recently the rumble of Bitwarden, an open source, free but with a premium paid option came to my awareness. The option to roll your own is a huge deal for me, even if I don’t actually ever roll my own server,

Installation

Bitwarden has several options for installation. I selected to download the AppImage. It should be noted that Your organization my vary but I have a designated AppImage folder for all my AppImages. Once you download it, make sure it is executable. Using Dolphin or your favorite file manager, access the properties and make it executable.

It should be noted that you can download Bitwarden for Windows and Mac OS as well. Not that those mater as much. There is are Deb, RPM and Snap options as well, if you so choose but it should be noted that Deb and RPM don’t have the ability to auto update.

I installed the Firefox Extension so that I could use Bitwarden in a more “seemless” fashion. If I could install Bitwarden on Falkon, I would but at this time, I am not sure how that would be accomplished. Supposedly there is some QML thing in the works but at this time, it is not obvious to me.

It should be noted that Firefox gives you a couple ways to use it. There is a side bar and a drop-down tool. I prefer the drop-down tool as the sidebar tool isn’t as easily turned on and off.

Features

The most commonly used method of using a password manager is automatically through a plugin on a browser. From the different sites I tested it out, it works well. I have tried it on a few sites and when I had input the password I was asked if I wanted Bitwarden to store the login information. Upon returning to that site it did indeed work as expected.

Bitwarden-02-Firefox Plugin.png

An interesting bonus is that you can add any number of notes to a saved password. You could perhaps put the other related notes about your password, or maybe not even have your password at all but a series of hints about your password if you are so paranoid.

Manual Password entry since I often use Falkon instead of Firefox or Chrome and there is not a Bitwarden browser extension available, I will use the Bitwarden in the stand alone mode and do a manual copy and paste into the browser. Although this takes a bit longer to use it’s better than nothing.

An interesting feature built into Bitwarden is a Password Generator. This allows you to generate a random password based on a few factors you set. I am not sure that I would use this feature as it would be me dependent on Bitwarden or some kind of index of passwords to keep things straight.

Bitwarden-02-Password Generator

An interesting feature I think I just may consider using is Identity Entry. I often have to go chasing around for my License or passport number for something but I could potentially put all this information here instead of just some text file on my drive.

Bitwarden-04-Identity.png

You can use Bitwarden for a a place to store all your credit card information. I suppose this could be a better way to store your credit card information as opposed to individual sites. You will have to ask yourself what you trust more, merchant’s web site or an encrypted vault. I think I know which one I trust more.

Another interesting feature in Bitwarden is Secure Notes. I am not exactly sure the intended purpose but I thought I would play around with it anyway. I don’t know if I would use it for my grocery list… not anything real secret about buying ground beef

Bitwarden-05-Secret Note.png

The last area I wanted to look at was not a feature but how much memory does the application use. I believe that the stand alone application is an electron based application and after a few tests of running it and shutting it down, the memory usage varied between 282 MiB and 334 MiB. Depending on how much you value your security will dictate if that amount of overhead is worth it to you. Personally, I think it is worth it on my primary system to have at the ready.

What I Like

The user interface is intuitive, you don’t have to spend any time going through manuals or researching how to instructions on utilizing Bitwarden. It is truly modern and straight forward.

It has a dark theme that integrates very nicely into my desktop’s Breeze Dark theme. It’s not exact, but close enough to not annoy me. It would be nice to have it match exactly but I am not going to be too picky.

A feature I didn’t know I would need but am glad is there is the ability to make folders for your different passwords or notes. The idea here is, you could keep a folder of all your financial passwords, your work password and different hobbies. A nice separation and it keeps things tidy.

Another great feature that I didn’t know I wanted is the ability to put notes with the password information. I can see me using this as such that there are some institutions I log into has additional bits of information outside of your password like your hobbies, your first car, etc. Those answers could very easily be added below in a notes section. This is a pretty fantastic feature, really as you can add all kinds of useful bits of information about the site in a convenient, “secure” container.

Updates seem to be automatic with the AppImage, I was surprised as can be about it too. First time I’ve ever seen an AppImage update itself.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t have a way to integrate Bitwarden into my primary browser of choice, but I really didn’t expect it. It does mean that if I am going to use Bitwarded, integrated into a browser, I will have to use Firefox or possibly Chrome / Chromium.

The memory usage does seem a bit on the high side but it is not a “strain” on my main system, it does make me think twice about using it on low specification systems.

Final Thoughts

After using this application for some time, I have decided that I am going to use this for managing my passwords. It is easy enough to use and the features I require are not that complex. I am also signing up for the Premium version, not because I need the premium features but because I want to support the project and feel good about using it.

Bitwarden works very well within openSUSE using the AppImage. That AppImage will also auto update which was a surprise to me. There is an RPM download for openSUSE from Bitwarden but does not have an Auto update ability… which does seem puzzling but whatever. It is also available for the other operating systems I don’t really care about.

There are many opinions about what is the best security practice, a mix of alphabetic characters with numbers and symbols or using a string of nonsensical words strung together with a smattering of numbers and symbols. Regardless of what your assessment is of “best practice” using Bitwarden is certainly a widely accepted method of storing and maintaining passwords and identities that has increased security yet remains accessible.

Further Reading

https://bitwarden.com/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/