Protect Your New Mobile Devices

Laptops, cellphones, PDA’s, they can all be stolen from your home.  You want to prevent thieves from making off with your expensive portable devices if possible, but if they’re stolen despite your best efforts, you still want to protect that data.  You certainly don’t want to lose access to the data yourself, but you don’t want the thieves to gain access to confidential information that could do you harm either.  I am pretty sure that you also want to increase the chances of getting the devices that you’ve paid for back.  These 4 statements will make up our goals and objectives for this exercise in securing these often targeted gadgets. 


Protect the data.

Objectives Required To Meet The Primary Goal: 

  1. Prevent the theft of portable devices.
  2. Prevent unauthorized access to data stored on portable devices.
  3. Maintain authorized access to the data stored on portable devices.
  4. Increase the chances of recovery and expedited return of the stolen portable devices.

Always Start with prevention:  When you are traveling, stow your laptop in a case that protects it physically, but doesn’t look like a typical laptop case.  A well constructed and padded backpack should do the trick.  Look for one with a padded section designed especially for a laptop.  It’s so much easier to slip this onto your back than to lug around a laptop case when travelling with other luggage, and to me it seems to lessen the strain on my shoulders and spine.

Keep it either in your line of sight or in physical contact at all times. Put it in your lap or between your legs when sitting down and not using it.  When you’re at home, secure it to a large heavy object, like a desk, with a lock and cable.  Most laptops now have a built-in security slot that a standard cable lock can clamp onto. Both Kensington and offer excellent cable locks.  When you’re staying at a hotel, bring the laptop with you or store it in the room safe.  If neither of these solutions are feasible, bring it to the front desk and ask if it can be put in the hotel’s safe.  As a last resort, use the ol’ cable lock.  MP3 players and USB storage devices should all be stored away from laptop, unless they are in one of the hotel’s safes.

 Protecting It’s Contents:  Even the most carefully protected laptop can be stolen, so you need to protect your data.  Most of your files will be of little use to criminals, but if you carry bank statements, corporate secrets, personal and credit card details, you definitely need to encrypt it.  If this is YOUR PERSONAL laptop, avoid using Windows’ Encrypted File System (EFS).  EFS is just too complex for most user when it comes to backing up keys and certificates.  Lose one or forget the special password and you’re toast, no access to your own data.  Instead, opt for a program like TrueCrypt.  This free open-source utility can create encrypted volumes where you can store your sensitive files.  When you open a volume with your password, it appears to Windows as another drive.  When you close it, it becomes a single encrypted and unreadable file.  For a user taking charge of his or her own encryption, this makes a lot more sense.

Ensuring Access:  So you have encrypted your data to keep the nosy and malicious out of your personal details.  You don’t want to lose access to it yourself.  Keep an up-to-date backup on an external drive.  DO NOT pack that drive in the same bag as your laptop.  In fact, leave the backup drive at home, and carry copies of any critical files you’ll need during this trip on an encrypted USB drive that you carry with you.  TrueCrypt can be used here again, or IronKey, McAfee, Kingston all make good ones.  Newer flash drives support biometric fingerprinting to confirm the user’s identity.  You could also backup your data online with a service like Mozy.  Here is a site that is focused on Online Backup Reviews.

Hardware Recovery:  If your laptop is stolen, chances are you’re never going to see it again.  If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you’re never going to win either!  Increase your chances of recovery by writing down your computer model and serial number, and storing that information somewhere away from your computer desk.  There are software and services that you can purchase from Absolute Software and even a FREE offering from LocateMyLaptop that may increase your odds of recovery even more.  Their stealthy software will report the laptop’s location based on its IP address whenever the laptop accesses the Internet.  This information can really help you track down your stolen computer, or allow you to nuke the data or Operating System.  For other portable devices, help is on the way.  StealthyTech reports that GadgetTrak has recently been awarded a patent for Portable Electronic Device Recovery technology.  They are selling 5pack licenses for about $100 a year.  When you want to add tracking capabilities to a gadget, you create a profile for it online, then you place a couple of downloaded files into the device’s root directory.  If one of your gadgets is stolen, log on to y our GadgetTrak account, and mark the gadget’s profile as stolen, enabling the device’s tracking script which runs every time the device is plugged into a computer.  The script requires the theif to execute it, but it cleverly disguises itself as a driver.  If an internet connection is present, the script will send out the location, username, and IP address of the computer it is connected to.  It can potentially be installed on any computer-bound device, such as digital cameras, USB drives, external hard drives, mp3 players, or anything else connected by USB.  Apple already has a tracking service for its portable phones.  Apple describes the Find My iPhone service here.

In summary:  The technology is now available to empower the average consumer with the capabiilties necessary to safeguard their personal data and recover their stolen portable devices.  Your mission, should you accept it, secure those portable devices, and ensure that no one but you can access your personal NOC list.  This blog-post will self-destruct in 5 seconds…