A man in Singapore bought a “brand new” laptop computer only to find 10 GBs worth of information on the portable device. The information included tax returns and divorce papers. Would full disk encryption like AlertBoot helped in this case? Doubtful, but not for the obvious reasons.
Repaired Computer Mix Up
How’d 10 GB of information end up on a brand new computer? According to the firm that sold the computer, there was a mix up: a customer to the firm brought in a computer to be serviced which somehow ended up in a pile of computers tagged to be sold.
I know, it sounds ludicrous. A brand-new device usually comes in a box, with styrofoam inserts, a plastic bag with choking hazard warnings, instruction manuals, etc. A computer that came in for servicing was packed with such assortments, taped up, and labeled new?
On the other hand, the story does note that the sale was from a “stand at his local IT fair.” Maybe it was sold to him outside the box? But then, who buys it believing that it’s new?
(Off comment: I know of electronic stores in Asia where, if you ask to see a product — let’s say a digital camera — the seller will open up the bottom of a box and fish out the device in question, and put it back in the same way. Just so they won’t have to break any tapes, stickers, seals, etc. on top and thus claim the box was never opened. Buying stuff out-of-the-box? Even less believable that it’s new. It’s probably “new.”)
Encryption. Would It Help?
From a purely technical standpoint, the use of encryption software would have prevented the information from being perused: since the correct username and password is required to access cryptographically-protected data, our gullible man above wouldn’t have been able to gain access to the computer.
But we have to remember that the laptop in question was brought in for servicing. Servicing usually requires access to the computer, which means that, had the computer been encrypted, it may have been decrypted as part of the repair process.
Remember, the purpose behind using laptop encryption is to protect sensitive data in the event a computer is stolen or goes missing. This is why encryption products are not considered a cure-all for all electronic mishaps, and why you’re also required to have other data security tools in place on your computer, like antivirus software and firewalls.
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