In addition to taking precautions to protect your portable devices, it
is important to add another layer of security by protecting the data
Why do you need another layer of protection?
Although there are ways to physically protect your laptop, PDA, or
other portable device (see Protecting Portable Devices: Physical
Security for more information), there is no guarantee that it won't be
stolen. After all, as the name suggests, portable devices are designed
to be easily transported. The theft itself is, at the very least,
frustrating, inconvenient, and unnerving, but the exposure of
information on the device could have serious consequences. Also,
remember that any devices that are connected to the internet,
especially if it is a wireless connection, are also susceptible to
network attacks (see Securing Wireless Networks for more information).
What can you do?
- Use passwords correctly - In the process of getting to the
information on your portable device, you probably encounter
multiple prompts for passwords. Take advantage of this security.
Don't choose options that allow your computer to remember
passwords, don't choose passwords that thieves could easily guess,
use different passwords for different programs, and take advantage
of additional authentication methods (see Choosing and Protecting
Passwords and Supplementing Passwords for more information).
- Consider storing important data separately - There are many forms
of storage media, including floppy disks, zip disks, CDs, DVDs,
and removable flash drives (also known as USB drives or thumb
drives). By saving your data on removable media and keeping it in
a different location (e.g., in your suitcase instead of your
laptop bag), you can protect your data even if your laptop is
stolen. You should make sure to secure the location where you keep
your data to prevent easy access.
- Encrypt files - By encrypting files, you ensure that unauthorized
people can't view data even if they can physically access it. You
may also want to consider options for full disk encryption, which
prevents a thief from even starting your laptop without a
passphrase. When you use encryption, it is important to remember
your passwords and passphrases; if you forget or lose them, you
may lose your data.
- Install and maintain anti-virus software - Protect laptops and
PDAs from viruses the same way you protect your desktop computer.
Make sure to keep your virus definitions up to date (see
Understanding Anti-Virus Software for more information).
- Install and maintain a firewall - While always important for
restricting traffic coming into and leaving your computer,
firewalls are especially important if you are traveling and
utilizing different networks. Firewalls can help prevent outsiders
from gaining unwanted access (see Understanding Firewalls for more
- Back up your data - Make sure to back up any data you have on your
computer onto a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or network (see Good Security
Habits and Real-World Warnings Keep You Safe Online for more
information). Not only will this ensure that you will still have
access to the information if your device is stolen, but it could
help you identify exactly which information a thief may be able to
access. You may be able to take measures to reduce the amount of
damage that exposure could cause.
Authors: Mindi McDowell, Matt Lytle
The above article is reproduced with the kind permission of US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) and the original document may be viewed by clicking here