computers need special security considerations
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First
published in Business
8-14, 2004 Issue #763 High Tech Office
With all the discussion of hackers, spyware and viruses it's easy to
forget that that our data is most easily lost in simple, old-fashioned
ways like theft. Or someone nearby reading what's on your screen. The
ease of taking notebook computers anywhere puts notebook users at the
most risk of these security breaches.
In keeping with the low-tech nature of these hazards, the solutions are
3M, for instance, offers a series of products with the descriptive name
Privacy Filter for Notebook and LCD Monitors, priced in the $70 to $100
range, depending on size. A thin sheet of plastic, the filter easily
attaches to your notebook screen, staying in place even with the lid
closed. In place, it dramatically cuts the angle from which the screen
can be viewed; even in cramped economy airline seating, the person in
the next seat will only see a black screen when they peak at your
These filters also reduce glare, resulting in less eyestrain, and help
protect notebook screens from fingerprints, dirt and damage.
Virtually all notebooks now sport a security slot, an easily-overlooked
narrow oval hole about 0.7 cm long somewhere along the notebook's edge.
There may be a nearby icon picturing a padlock, perhaps with the letter
"K" on the lock. That "K" stands for Kensington, the company that
popularized and standardized the slot.
It's designed to work with any of a number of security cables from
Kensington and others; on one end, there's a keyed or combination lock
built onto a tiny metal "T" shape designed to fit into the slot after
looping the other end of the cable around a piece of furniture. If you
don't like hauling around a heavy cable, Kensington's $45 Microsaver
Retractable Lock cleverly packs a retractable four-foot lightweight
cable into a case about the size and shape of a computer mouse.
If your notebook lacks a security slot, Kensington offers a free slot
adapter kit (www.microsaver.com).
If your notebook still ends up taking a walk, Vancouver-based Absolute
Software's Computrace (www.computrace.com) can track it. With
Computrace installed, notebooks quietly "phone home" to Absolute's
tracking centre via modem or network, allowing it to be located and
recovered. Optionally, Absolute can remotely wipe data from a stolen
Many notebook models, particularly the low end of ultra-light models,
now lack floppy disk drives. Adding or replacing a notebook floppy
drive once meant being tied to expensive proprietary drives from your
notebook manufacturer. Now however, it's easy to add a generic USB
floppy disk drive ($60 to $100) from a variety of manufacturers. Iomega
has gone one step further, with its $90 Floppy Plus 7-in-1 card reader.
In a nicely styled portable case it combines a floppy drive with the
readers for most of the popular memory card formats used in digital
cameras and other devices. Compact Flash, Secure Digital, Memory Stick,
and Smart Media cards are all supported (but not the xD memory cards
used in recent Olympus and Fuji cameras). Setup is virtually
non-existent: just plug it into a USB port on most recent Macs and PCs
and it's ready to use.
(A copy of Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition is included, letting
Windows users organize digital photos.)