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Jewish World Review
July 14, 2006
/ 18 Tamuz, 5766
Keeping your Notebook Secure
EPHESUS, TURKEY The azure waters of the Aegean Sea lap against the
shore, 11 stories below my room. A gentle breeze wafts in through the
balcony door. The staff at the Suermeli Resort Hotel seem friendly and
cheerful. Why should I have any cares on my mind?
Well, I have a computer with me, that's why. And since it's not only a
portable, but a borrowed one at that, I want to make sure that it returns
home with me, so that I can return it to its owner, Apple Computer.
As was demonstrated by the theft (and later recovery) of a Hewlett-Packard
notebook computer owned by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, keeping
your notebook safe is more than a trivial matter. Beyond the
not-always-insignificant cost of replacing hardware, the truly valuable
part of any computer is its data: work that can't be easily replaced, or
even confidential items that shouldn't be in general circulation.
How then to provide physical security? It begins with awareness. It's easy
to misplace or forget many things, and computers are among them. Always
keep in mind that you have something of value with you. For me, that
generally involves keeping the computer with me which is something I
should do at the conference I'm attending in any case. At the meetings, I
keep it in a small case along with other essential items, and that enables
me to be focused on its location.
At the same time, a small package is a tempting target. A portable alarm,
such as the Targus DEFCON-1 Ultra Notebook Computer Security System,
$39.95 at http://www.targus.com and other retailers, is a good on-the-go
solution; the motion-sensitive device will sound when the device's
security cable is severed or when motion sensor is armed and triggered.
Another good device to buy is a wire lock such as a Kensington MicroSaver
(stet), around $40 in stores, which fastens a small lock to the eponymous
"Kensington slot" on most notebooks. the cable, which can wrap around a
table leg or other stationary object, is made of a steel composite cable
with reinforced Kevlar that cannot be easily cut. The cable is similar to
that of the DEFCON-1, but is designed for longer-term usage, as when
leaving your notebook in a hotel room for a while.
Despite whatever devices you might use to protect a notebook, your five
senses plus a little common sense are most important. Vigilance,
vigilance and more vigilance are what's required.
Keeping the physical data safe is also a challenge, but one that can be
met. Security devices built into notebooks smart card and fingerprint
readers, for example can provide additional security. If a thief can't
get to your data conventionally, if a security device blocks them, your
notebook's information may be safe.
Full disk encryption, mentioned last week, is also vital. But here I need
to make a correction: Paul Henry, the security expert quoted here, wrote
to say he was referring to the "free" software version of PGP, or Pretty
Good Privacy, as not featuring full disk encryption. The commercial
version has it, Mr. Henry says, and that should be noted.
WI-FI EVERYWHERE: Ephesus is known to many as a Biblical city where the
Apostle Paul once labored, departing from the Aegean shores. You might not
imagine that Ephesus would have a developed Wi-Fi system, but my hotel
does, thanks to TT-winet, the local wireless Internet provider. Speeds are
excellent and a reminder that even in once-ancient cities, high tech has
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com