- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

EPHESUS, Turkey — The azure waters of the Aegean Sea lap against the shore 11 stories below my room. A gentle breeze wafts in through the balcony door. The staff at the Surmeli Resort Hotel are friendly and cheerful.

Why should I have any cares on my mind? Well, I have a computer with me, that’s why. And since it’s not only a portable, but a borrowed one at that, I want to make sure that it returns home with me, so that I can return it to its owner, Apple Computer.

As was demonstrated by the theft (and later recovery) of a Hewlett-Packard notebook computer owned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, keeping your notebook safe is more than a trivial matter. Beyond the not-always-insignificant cost of replacing hardware, the truly valuable part of any computer is its data: work that can’t be easily replaced, or even confidential items that shouldn’t be in general circulation.

How then to provide physical security? It begins with awareness. It’s easy to misplace or forget many things, and computers are among them. Always keep in mind that you have something of value with you. For me, that generally involves keeping the computer with me, which is something I should do at the conference I’m attending in any case. At the meetings, I keep it in a small case along with other essential items, and that enables me to be focused on its location.

At the same time, a small package is a tempting target. A portable alarm, such as the Targus DEFCON-1 Ultra Notebook Computer Security System, $39.95 at www.targus.com and other retailers, is a good on-the-go solution; the motion-sensitive device will sound when the device’s security cable is severed or when motion sensor is armed and triggered.

Another good device to buy is a wire lock such as a Kensington MicroSaver, around $40 in stores, which fastens a small lock to the eponymous “Kensington slot” on most notebooks. The cable, which can wrap around a table leg or other stationary object, is made of a steel composite cable with reinforced Kevlar that cannot be easily cut.

Despite whatever devices you might use to protect a notebook, your five senses — plus a little common sense — are most important. Vigilance, vigilance and more vigilance are what’s required.

Keeping the physical data safe is also a challenge, but one that can be met. Security devices built into notebooks, smart card and fingerprint readers, for example, can provide additional security.

Full disk encryption, mentioned last week, is also vital. But here I need to make a correction: Paul Henry, the security expert quoted here, wrote to say he was referring to the “free” software version of PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy, as not featuring full disk encryption. The commercial version has it, Mr. Henry says, and that should be noted.

Wi-Fi everywhere: Ephesus is known to many as a biblical city where the Apostle Paul once labored, departing from the Aegean shores. You might not imagine that Ephesus would have a developed Wi-Fi system, but my hotel does, thanks to TT-winet, the local wireless Internet provider. Speeds are excellent and a reminder that even in once-ancient cities, high technology has some reach.

Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at https://www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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