Data Encryption Software Not As Good As A Screeching Laptop?.

Well, the laptop doesn’t really screech, unless you want it to.  But I’m wondering whether this is a serious alternative to full disk encryption software like AlertBoot when it comes to data security.


According to coverage by the washingtonpost.com, there is a company out in Colorado that’s offering software that will display your contact information when a computer is turned on.  You can also post messages, like offering a reward for the safe return of the equipment, and track the location of your laptop if it connects to the internet after it’s stolen.  The software has existed for years now.


So why the sudden coverage?  Why now?


Because of a new feature where the laptop will scream that it was stolen.  The default message seems to be, “help, this laptop is reported lost or stolen. If you are not my owner, please report me now.”  You can also record your own.


Retrieving Your Laptop


There is the option to add a second password prompt–and additional one to the Windows prompt, I guess–but that seems to be it in terms of blocking access to your data.  Everything else seems to be geared towards the retrieval of the laptop.


(I guess I could download it and test it out, but this is not a product review article.  All I want to do is point out the obvious, from a data security standpoint.)


First off, I’d like to say that I don’t think this software is useless.  Recovering stolen property is always a good thing, and if the software leads to recuperating stolen laptops 90% of the time, well, it’s a very well-spent $30.


Depending on the kindness of strangers is not a bad strategy–although, I’d have to say that solely depending on the kindness of strangers is a terrible strategy.


Does It Really Protect Your Data?


How good is the software when it comes to preventing the theft of data?  Password prompts can be bypassed quite easily.  In fact, methods of doing so are not difficult to find with Google.


Or what if the hard drive is connected to a different computer?  My gut feeling is that it won’t work anymore (it might not be the case.  Without actually testing out the software, it’s impossible to tell.  I can say, though, that when I slave one computer drive to another, security software installed on the slaved drive, like antivirus applications, don’t start up automatically since the drive is slaved).


And, of course, if the computer is screaming, all you have to do is kill the sound.  If the volume control is disabled, then just pop a pair of headphones in.  Now the scream is a mosquito buzz.  Don’t like the buzz?  Cut off the headphones but keep the jack plugged in.


If I had to choose between the above software and whole disk encryption for my own computer, I’d go for the latter.  The main reason for that choice is because I actually have sensitive data on my computer; I can’t afford to increase my chances of having a data breach if my computer gets stolen.


On the other hand, if my computer didn’t carry any sensitive data on it, I’d probably opt for the screaming software.  Without any sensitive data, the priority becomes rescuing my laptop from the greasy hands of some thief.  What do I care that he can see I’m over thirty and still a big fan of Looney Tunes?



Related Articles:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/25/AR2009022503170.html
http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=security-software-that-gives-laptop-2009-02-26



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