What You Need To Know To Protect Yourself And Your Business

Phillip Jen

With the advent of the computer and Internet age, computer security and Internet safety has suddenly become a major concern for all users. No longer is your information safe and secure behind locked doors or safe deposit boxes. Information can be stolen from within your computer system using just a few simple commands and unscrupulous people can invade your homes or businesses via the Internet.

Personal computers, commercially available operating systems (that would be Windows!) and e-mail contain no effective protection against unauthorized access or theft of your confidential data stored on data disks and hard drives. A clever (read devious) hacker can read and steal your confidential data while you check your e-mail or while your are away from your computer. Enormous financial losses through theft of proprietary information have been reported and are increasing at intolerable rates. More alarmingly, countless undetected incidences of theft are continuously occurring and only detected when it is too late.

How then can you protect your data while at lunch, on vacation or business trips? Answers to these questions are many and involve the most rudimentary solutions to high tech gadgetry. The following are 9 ways to protect yourself going from the least practical to best option.

9. Locking your computer within theft secure cabinets or closets is an effective way of safeguarding your data (I did say rudimentory!). This method is an option only if you have the energy, time and a safe and secure place to store your computer.

8. You may have the option of removing your hard drive from your personal computer and taking it with you. This method is very effective in preventing data theft but is laborious and also places you in danger of accidentally loosing your most prized information. Further, in today's on- the-go business environment, not many people are willing to sacrifice their time and energy to remove the hard drive every time they step away from their desks.

7. You may also take your computer with you. However, similar to the method of removing your hard drive your may run the risk of loosing your computer.

6. You may also place all your sensitive files onto a floppy disk or other data storage device (e.g. Jaz, Zip etc.) and take it with you. Again, this method is effective but is also laborious and is not immune to simple human error such as loosing your disks.

5. A bios lock is effective against intrusion attempts by novices but this method can easily be bypassed by simple manipulation of hardware.

4. A simple power lock designed to attach to your power source can be used to prevent data theft. This method may be effective for desktop computers during short trips away from your desk but it is not the answer for all other battery- powered computers.

3. Computer security programs (software only) are available to prevent unauthorized access by using a password based security procedure. However, software-based systems are only effective against break in attempts by novices and can be by-passed with simple software manipulation.

2. Hardware/software systems are available to protect your computer more securely than software only systems. They comprise dual security functions of software and a hardware key that makes unauthorized access more difficult. Nevertheless, these systems are designed for modest protection from data theft and are most effective for blocking unauthorized access when you step away from your computer for a short period of time. These security systems are usually based on a blocking screen format. Once the system is activated (via password or by removing the smart card or token from their respective readers) the blocking screen will appear and eliminate the possibility of unauthorized users accessing data files. These systems are solutions for moderate security but can be bypassed given enough time alone with the computer. VirtualGate is one example of this type of security system. For more information go to http://www.armadillo.com.hk/virtualgate.htm

1. Encryption software and/or crypto-hardware/software systems are very effective against data theft and are commonly used by financial institutions, governments and large corporations. This is by far the best solution as it combines many of the advantages of the previous systems. For more information check out GateKeeper at http://www.armadillo.com.hk/gatekeeper.htm.

Dr. Phillip Jen Ph.D. Professor at CUHK (Chinese University of Hong Kong)