We have seen a recent rash of reports of problems caused by stolen computers. In some cases the computers were laptops, and in others they were desktops. In all cases, the confidential information on the computers was unprotected. This seemed to us to be good reason to again address the issue of data protection on your PC.
For a start, you should ask yourself if there is anything of value on your home or office computer that would cause a problem if the machine fell into the hands of others. If the answer is no, please ask a grownup to take over from here.
Assuming the answer is yes, how can you protect the information? For a start, you need to encrypt any information that you don’t want in the hands of others. We use Private Disk (see the November 2006 issue of ÆGIS) to create an encrypted virtual disk on our hard drive, and our e-mail client, The Bat! (see the January 2005and July 2006 issues of ÆGIS) stores our e-mail and address book in encrypted form. Some files that are particularly sensitive we encrypt with PGP.
On the down side, we at present use the challenge and response system ChoiceMail (see the February 2007 issue of ÆGIS) to filter spam. This leaves the list of accepted e-mail addresses visible, but we feel this risk is acceptable. One way to bypass our efforts would be to put in a keylogger. We try to deal with this by having software that should detect keyloggers, by having a lock on the computer to make it difficult to open, and by having our office alarmed. We inspect regularly for tampering of the keyboard.
Finally, we are always concerned with the computer being stolen in spite of all our efforts. To deal with this we have installed PC Phone Home (see the April 2002 issue of ÆGIS). This software, available for both PC and MAC, should allow us to locate our computers when they are stolen.