Portable computing security awareness

The age of portable computing

The proliferation of portable computing has been the trend over the past few years. In 2008, laptop computer sales surpassed desktop computer sales and the gap is widening quickly. More than ninety percent of Emory student computers are laptops. With the great advantages of portable computing come some additional risks to protect against.

Highlights: Don't leave your laptop unattended without properly securing it. Don't store sensitive data on your laptop. Don't connect to suspicious wireless networks. Do make regular backups of your important files. Do report stolen laptops to the police.

Laptop loss and theft

Loss and theft of portable computers and storage devices is noted as one of the top security incidents in many industry reports, as well as being the cause of many personal identity information breaches in the headlines. What to do: Keep an eye on your portable devices at all times and never leave them unattended without properly securing them. In a vehicle or on a plane, keep your device with you. In hotels, at conferences, or other public places, secure your device with a cable lock. After hours at the office, or when otherwise not in use, lock it up out of sight. If traveling overseas remove sensitive data from your device before you leave. Unfortunately, not all thefts or losses can be prevented, which means it's very important not to store sensitive or confidential information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. Employees should store sensitive data on their departmental servers instead, and use the Emory Virtual Private Network (VPN) to assess your data when traveling. If your laptop is stolen, contact the local police to file a report and report the theft to your IT Service Desk and your local IT department if the computer was owned by Emory. Also, contact your computer vendor (Dell, Apple, etc.) as they may be able to provide assistance in recovering a stolen device by flagging the serial number in their support system.

Coming soon for employees - disk encryption

Emory has just published a new Disk Encryption Policy that recommends disk encryption for all notebook computers and requires it for those storing sensitive information.  Emory has selected PGP Whole Disk Encryption for this project.  Details on costs, availability and deployment are being provided to IT directors and IT support staff.  If you store sensitive data on your laptop or have large volumes of sensitive data on your desktop computer, be sure to let your local IT staff know that you may need disk encryption.

Wireless networking

Wireless networking (aka WiFi) is everywhere, which makes portable computing so&.portable. However, connecting to strange networks comes with risks. To minimize these risks, only connect to networks you trust. Malicious wireless networks with names like Free WiFi are common, attempting to lure people to connect and be attacked. What to do: If you aren't sure if a wireless network is safe, don't connect. When connecting to a network offered by a legitimate business, verify the name of the network before connecting. Connecting to other networks makes computer security basics (up-to-date anti-virus software, current patches and an enabled firewall) even more important.

Information loss

A damaged or stolen notebook computer can certainly ruin your day, but losing important information without a backup could ruin your whole year. Whether it's a budget spreadsheet, a dissertation, or digital photos; it may be painstaking, or impossible, to get back to where you started. What to do: Employees should store critical information on departmental servers instead of a laptop computer if possible. If you do store any important information on your laptop or desktop computer, be sure to make regular backups of the data, so it can be recovered if your device is ever lost, stolen, or damaged. Choosing a durable bag or backpack, and always using it, can go a long way to reducing the chances of damaging your computer.