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Laptop Security: Keep the Bad Guys at Bay

by Stacy Collett

Obviously, Joe's laptop computer is equipped with the most up-to-date antivirus, firewall and encryption solutions, but it also has more advanced security gizmos.

His laptop carries an embedded fingerprint swipe reader that prevents others from masquerading as Joe. When he powers on his laptop, a touch of his finger to the mouse grants Joe access to specific applications, files, databases and even individual functions. Fingerprint identification is also available for his keyboard and even his PCMCIA cards.

Fingerprints are able to reliably provide "proof of presence" that ensures that the laptop can be accessed only by the actual people to whom permission is specifically granted.

Redwood City, Calif.-based DigitalPersona offers a fingerprint authentication solution that allows users to log on to Microsoft Windows Vista and XP Professional computers and networks with the touch of a finger. When added security is required, multicredential authentication can be enforced.

Scan thermal imaging and even 3-D face readers are also available to control laptop, desktop and network access from companies like AuthenTec, based in Melbourne, Fla., and L-1 Identity Solutions in Stamford, Conn., to name a few.

Preventing Peripheral Damage

Joe is also aware that danger lurks in the peripherals that he, or others, might connect to this laptop-an MP3 player, memory stick, optical device or even the network printer. So he uses an endpoint access manager that controls, monitors and logs how his data is downloaded and uploaded to those endpoints. MyUSBOnly can block all actions from those peripherals, permit specific actions or just monitor the activities on all of his communication interfaces.

Joe also doesn't forget about the average thug who could just rip the laptop from his hand on his way to or from the office. So his laptop is equipped with an internal LoJack system. If the laptop is stolen, software on his computer will silently contact a monitoring center and report its location using any available Internet connection. Then a recovery team, staffed by former police officers and security professionals, works with local law enforcement to get the laptop back.

To ensure that his stolen laptop takes company secrets to the grave, Joe also has a Data Delete feature that uses algorithms that meet the United States Department of Defense standard for data removal. Once removed, data cannot be recovered by any means. When a data delete function completes, a log file can be viewed in the Customer Center website, confirming that all sensitive data has been deleted. The company claims to retrieve three out of four laptops reported stolen, or about 5,000 laptops to date.

Outsmarting the Bad Guys

To keep a step ahead of would-be saboteurs, hackers and thieves, Joe continually updates his laptop security software and devices with the latest products by smaller, agile companies -- just as government security agencies do.

"We can be assured that whatever technology we're fielding, there are potential adversaries whose adaptation cycle is rapid" as well, says Kathleen Kiernan, CEO of security consulting firm The Kiernan Group in Washington, D.C., and an adviser to the intelligence industry. "Sometimes development of technology is really slow -- so we're looking for that small, agile company on the cutting edge that is thinking through hard problems" and how to thwart not just existing security threats, but the next generation of threats, she adds.

Just to be extra cautious about a really old-fashioned threat, Joe keeps his laptop physically locked to his desk with a steel cable during the day.




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Microsoft Windows XP, Server 2003, 2008, Vista, 7, 8, 10, 11 - MyUSBOnly is not a resource-consuming utility.


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