October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

The Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, partnered with the Multi-State Isac, has declared this month to be Cyber Security Awareness Month.

The goal is to get people thinking about how to protect themselves online. Often people think that protecting themselves is just that- protecting themselves and their own interests- their own data, their own identity and their own bank accounts. Often people forget that connecting a vulnerable system to the Internet could open an avenue for attackers and hackers to use your system to attack others. So by keeping yourself secure you also help secure the nation, one node at a time.

I will be writing some cyber-based articles with this goal in mind.

First up is Protecting Your Laptop. A healthy chunk of cyber-based articles I write comes about because of stolen laptops. There are strong-arm robbers in San Francisco in which thugs shove coffee drinkers to the ground to nab laptops. The government put millions of veterans at risk by allowing a laptop to be stolen that contained personal data. And many consultant groups have put their customers at risk by allowing laptops to get stolen that contain HR information, like the E&Y employee that left his laptop in his car, allowing Sun Microsystems’ Scott McNealy’s personal information to be exposed.

Even famous people get sloppy with their laptops. Francis Ford Coppola, director of the Godfather, left a script on a laptop that was stolen. He didn’t have backups, either. From the NYDaily News here:

Francis Ford Coppola was still working on the script for his upcoming film “Tetro,” but Buenos Aires thieves have already made it a hot property.

Armed robbers stole a laptop computer containing the “Godfather” director’s work on the screenplay after breaking into the Argentine headquarters of Zoetrope, his production company.

Noticias Argentinas, a local news agency, reported that at least 5 bandits raided the Zoetrope offices, tying up employees and making off with cameras and other computers.

“Tetro,” reportedly a semi-autobiographical tale of Italian immigrant artists in Buenos Aires, is set to begin filming next year starring Matt Dillon.

The 68-year-old director and 5-time Oscar winner pleaded for the return of the laptop, which he said was essential to his work.

Why make backups when you can “beg thieves” to return your data?

It can be simple to protect a laptop against physical theft:

  1. Don’t leave it in your car in plain sight. You wouldn’t leave a wad of twenties on the dashboard. To thieves, a laptop is the same thing.
  2. Don’t leave your laptop unattended in public places such as airports, bars, cafes and restaurants.
  3. If you leave your laptop at the office, lock it in a safe or chain it to the desk. Thieves like to take jobs as cleaning crew to harvest unattended laptops.
  4. Password protect your laptop. The operating system password can be easily cracked with a recovery disk. Make it so the laptop won’t turn on without a password by using the CMOS boot password option.
  5. If you process any private information, keep it encrypted. That way if it gets swiped the data shouldn’t be compromised.
  6. Backup your critical files on CD, DVD or external hard drive. In case of a crash or theft, your valuable files such as photos, music and that million-dollar movie script can be recovered.
2 comments on “October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
  1. I do all of this except CMOS because Macs don’t “do” that, but I have it so that people would have to know my login name if they wanted in, and root is disabled. If they do use an OS CD to get in the door any of my confidential files are encrypted with a very strong password.

    I could do a firmware password, but it’s my understanding that a thief could then just change out the amount of RAM I have thus negating the password anyway. (Although, I guess that’s similar to cracking the PC and resetting the jumper…)

    It’d be nice if I was being ignorant in this case.

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