Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Keeping Your Computer and Its Contents Safe

Filed under
Security

IT'S hard not to experience anxiety when you're traveling with a laptop. A computer can certainly make life easier for travelers keeping an online travel journal, serial e-mailers and those who want to keep up with their jobs. But there are, as every laptop-toting traveler knows, numerous risks: accidental drops during security screenings, theft from a hotel room, loss in a taxi or restaurant or hardware failure from too many jolts.

"Laptops are great because you can take your entire office with you wherever you go, but you need to recognize that your entire office might be lost, stolen or damaged beyond use," said Ann Westerheim, president of Ekaru, a technology services company.

Perhaps the most important safety measure, Ms. Westerheim said, is protecting the information on your computer, so that if it is damaged, lost or stolen, the data remain safe. Travelers now have many backup devices to choose from.

Beside storing your files and data on a removable CD or DVD disk, there is a variety of other portable storage devices. Particularly convenient are flash drives: small key-chain-size plastic devices that weigh only an ounce or so and plug into a computer's U.S.B. port (the port typically used for connecting printers and other peripherals). You can copy your e-mail files, documents, pictures or data files to the U.S.B. flash drive and can then keep the files with you or keep them in the hotel safe.

Lexar makes a U.S.B. memory device, JumpDrive Secure, with one gigabyte of storage, large enough for lots of documents, photos and e-mail ($75.99 at Amazon.com), that includes software that allows only users with a password to download data.

For additional security, there are flash drives with biometric capabilities, like a fingerprint reader that allows access only with a matching fingerprint. For example, ACP makes a U.S.B. memory drive (Security Key Fingerprint Mini Flash Drive, $200.99 at www.compusa.com) with one gigabyte of storage. Other U.S.B. flash drives, like the Relay 512MB ($49.98 from Staples) simply provide portable storage without any additional security capabilities.

Alternatively, you might even want to consider storing or backing up your data files on the memory cards that slip into comparably equipped digital cameras or cellular phones. For example, my Nokia 6230 phone from Cingular accepts standard MultiMedia Cards (SanDisk 256MB MMC Card, $39.99 at www.sandisk.com) that I can remove from the phone and slide into a computer to copy and store files, while my digital camera accepts Memory Stick styles of memory cards. This solution is good for travelers who simply want backup.

Of course, you want to protect the laptop itself, too. A variety of traditional security-oriented devices like cables (just like bicycle locks) for attaching your laptop to something immovable (for example, the Kensington MicroSaver, $44.99 at www.kensington.com), or small motion-detecting alarms that are placed in the bag with the laptop (Targus PA400U Defcon 1, $49.99 at www.targus.com), help guard against theft.

But there is a range of other, more basic approaches for reducing the risk and stress of taking your computer with you.

There is your hotel, for instance. Before booking a room, security-conscious laptop owners should ask what size of room safe the hotel offers or if the front desk is willing to store a laptop in the office safe.

"We all know hotel safes aren't perfect, but they do protect from most thieves," said Brian Beeler, president of NoteBookReview.com, a Web site that reviews notebook PC's. "While the average safe isn't very large, most are large enough to secure 12-inch notebooks and under. Larger machines, especially with wide screens, simply won't fit, reducing your physical security options."

A few hotels have started offering larger safes. For example, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., recently installed a specially designed laptop safe in every room that not only fits newer, widescreen laptops but also includes power outlets so guests can charge their computers (and other devices) while keeping them secure. Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla., also offers extra-large in-room safes with electric outlets.

"You can also insure your notebook by adding it on to your homeowner's or renter's policy," Mr. Beeler said. "It's often more affordable than the accidental damage policies that computer stores sell."

In some cases, your existing homeowner's insurance policy will cover theft of laptops, with your standard deductible, if it's not being used for business purposes. Safeware (www.safeware.com) offers insurance for notebook computers and includes coverage for accidental damage, theft, vandalism and other problems. The premium for a three-month-old computer that cost $1,500 with no deductible was $90, based on a recent Web-generated quote.

If you don't want to travel with a computer but need access to data, files or e-mail while on the road and have the use of a hotel business center or other Internet source, you can arrange to have your computer at home run a remote access program that's included in Windows XP or through a service like GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc.com), which enables users to gain access remotely to their PC's from any Internet-connected computer. To use a service like GoToMyPC, you register the computer you want to make available on the site, download the remote access host software and install it. To access that computer remotely, you then use a Web-enabled PC to log in to your home PC. You are now able to work as if you were at home. Personal plans for GoToMyPC start at $19.95 a month or $179.40 a year.

And lowest tech of all, travelers can take a simple and inexpensive precaution recommended by Robert L. Siciliano, a personal security and identify theft expert and president of SafeTravelSecurity.com. "I have all my contact information and a picture of me taped to the back of my computer," Mr. Siciliano said. "That way if I leave it somewhere, people can easily identify me and call or page me to retrieve it."

By DAVID A. KELLY
The New York Times

Wow

Has the New York Times slipped into mediocrity or what? Can't wait for that article writer's next report on using a raincoat to stay dry in the rain and how you can prevent being stuck with a flat tire by carrying a spare. His laptop article was complete dribble - can you say "Gosh Mr. Obvious, tell us more"?

re: Wow

lololol... you crack me up!

Hey, and that was the best article on there today. Big Grin

Oh man, news gets so slow on the weekend...

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

More in Tux Machines

Security News

  • Tuesday's security updates
  • New Open Source Linux Ransomware Divides Infosec Community
    Following our investigation into this matter, and seeing the vitriol-filled reaction from some people in the infosec community, Zaitsev has told Softpedia that he decided to remove the project from GitHub, shortly after this article's publication. The original, unedited article is below.
  • Fax machines' custom Linux allows dial-up hack
    Party like it's 1999, phreakers: a bug in Epson multifunction printer firmware creates a vector to networks that don't have their own Internet connection. The exploit requirements are that an attacker can trick the victim into installing malicious firmware, and that the victim is using the device's fax line. The firmware is custom Linux, giving the printers a familiar networking environment for bad actors looking to exploit the fax line as an attack vector. Once they're in that ancient environment, it's possible to then move onto the network to which the the printer's connected. Yves-Noel Weweler, Ralf Spenneberg and Hendrik Schwartke of Open Source Training in Germany discovered the bug, which occurs because Epson WorkForce multifunction printers don't demand signed firmware images.
  • Google just saved the journalist who was hit by a 'record' cyberattack
    Google just stepped in with its massive server infrastructure to run interference for journalist Brian Krebs. Last week, Krebs' site, Krebs On Security, was hit by a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that took it offline, the likes of which was a "record" that was nearly double the traffic his host Akamai had previously seen in cyberattacks. Now just days later, Krebs is back online behind the protection of Google, which offers a little-known program called Project Shield to help protect independent journalists and activists' websites from censorship. And in the case of Krebs, the DDoS attack was certainly that: The attempt to take his site down was in response to his recent reporting on a website called vDOS, a service allegedly created by two Israeli men that would carry out cyberattacks on behalf of paying customers.
  • Krebs DDoS aftermath: industry in shock at size, depth and complexity of attack
    “This attack didn’t stop, it came in wave after wave, hundreds of millions of packets per second,” says Josh Shaul, Akamai’s vice president of product management, when Techworld spoke to him. “This was different from anything we’ve ever seen before in our history of DDoS attacks. They hit our systems pretty hard.” Clearly still a bit stunned, Shaul describes the Krebs DDoS as unprecedented. Unlike previous large DDoS attacks such as the infamous one carried out on cyber-campaign group Spamhaus in 2013, this one did not use fancy amplification or reflection to muster its traffic. It was straight packet assault from the old school.
  • iOS 10 makes it easier to crack iPhone back-ups, says security firm
    INSECURITY FIRM Elcomsoft has measured the security of iOS 10 and found that the software is easier to hack than ever before. Elcomsoft is not doing Apple any favours here. The fruity firm has just launched the iPhone 7, which has as many problems as it has good things. Of course, there are no circumstances when vulnerable software is a good thing, but when you have just launched that version of the software, it is really bad timing. Don't hate the player, though, as this is what Elcomsoft, and what Apple, are supposed to be doing right. "We discovered a major security flaw in the iOS 10 back-up protection mechanism. This security flaw allowed us to develop a new attack that is able to bypass certain security checks when enumerating passwords protecting local (iTunes) back-ups made by iOS 10 devices," said Elcomsoft's Oleg Afonin in a blog post.
  • After Tesla: why cybersecurity is central to the car industry's future
    The news that a Tesla car was hacked from 12 miles away tells us that the explosive growth in automotive connectivity may be rapidly outpacing automotive security. This story is illustrative of two persistent problems afflicting many connected industries: the continuing proliferation of vulnerabilities in new software, and the misguided view that cybersecurity is separate from concept, design, engineering and production. This leads to a ‘fire brigade approach’ to cybersecurity where security is not baked in at the design stage for either hardware or software but added in after vulnerabilities are discovered by cybersecurity specialists once the product is already on the market.

Ofcom blesses Linux-powered, open source DIY radio ‘revolution’

Small scale DAB radio was (quite literally) conceived in an Ofcom engineer’s garden shed in Brighton, on a Raspberry Pi, running a full open source stack, in his spare time. Four years later, Ofcom has given the thumbs up to small scale DAB after concluding that trials in 10 UK cities were judged to be a hit. We gave you an exclusive glimpse into the trials last year, where you could compare the specialised proprietary encoders with the Raspberry Pi-powered encoders. “We believe that there is a significant level of demand from smaller radio stations for small scale DAB, and that a wider roll-out of additional small scale services into more geographic areas would be both technically possible and commercially sustainable,” notes Ofcom. Read more

nginx

Case in point: I've been using the Apache HTTP server for many years now. Indeed, you could say that I've been using Apache since before it was even called "Apache"—what started as the original NCSA HTTP server, and then the patched server that some enterprising open-source developers distributed, and finally the Apache Foundation-backed open-source colossus that everyone recognizes, and even relies on, today—doing much more than just producing HTTP servers. Apache's genius was its modularity. You could, with minimal effort, configure Apache to use a custom configuration of modules. If you wanted to have a full-featured server with tons of debugging and diagnostics, you could do that. If you wanted to have high-level languages, such as Perl and Tcl, embedded inside your server for high-speed Web applications, you could do that. If you needed the ability to match, analyze and rewrite every part of an HTTP transaction, you could do that, with mod_rewrite. And of course, there were third-party modules as well. Read more

Linux and Open Source Hardware for IoT

Most of the new 21 open source software projects for IoT that we examined last week listed Linux hacker boards as their prime development platforms. This week, we’ll look at open source and developer-friendly Linux hardware for building Internet of Things devices, from simple microcontroller-based technology to Linux-based boards. In recent years, it’s become hard to find an embedded board that isn’t marketing with the IoT label. Yet, the overused term is best suited for boards with low prices, small footprints, low power consumption, and support for wireless communications and industrial interfaces. Camera support is useful for some IoT applications, but high-end multimedia is usually counterproductive to attributes like low cost and power consumption. Read more