Should I back up if my machine is infected?

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I try to be careful about opening my email, but there’s a hacker out there who has the names in my address book. He or she sends out emails that look like they come from people I know. Their email address doesn’t show up, so I can see the address is not correct, but some made up address. The title is something like “Look here” and the message is “Hello, excellent website!” with a name of the website. I opened it thinking that the email was from my son. I got two of these kinds of emails and one after the other before I got suspicious and realized that I’d been hacked. So far, nothing bad has happened. Now I’m afraid to do a backup because it might mean the importation of the virus into my external backup drive. Is my thinking about this correct?

It is and it isn’t.

When people think their machine is infected, I typically tell people to backup that machine. Yes, you are backing up a possible infection, but that’s actually okay. You’re never going to actually restore that infection simply because you know that it’s there.

So why backup?

Let’s walk through the scenario.

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