Closing out 2010

2010 is about to become a memory. This is a great time to take stock of your IT situation. Rather than simply a reminder to backup (Please, of course, do that!), this is a suggestion to consider a worst case scenario in your IT world.

I recently watched a fascinating talk in which a hacker discussed what took place after his pride and joy computer was stolen out of his apartment. He was able to track it over the course of the next two years as it crossed the country and eventually wound up in the hands of someone in Las Vegas. All that time his data traveled along with the computer. He is a very sophisticated user and his methods are beyond what most people would be able or willing to do, but the warning should be clear; if your computer or iPad or iPhone was stolen what would your level of pain be?

Let's take a few moments and pretend it's actually happened to your computer or phone. Was your machine backed up? Was your only backup attached to the computer? If so, it likely went with the machine. How accessible is the data on the machine?

These kinds of thoughts should have you thinking over the basics:

1. Record your receipts, serial numbers and information about peripherals and software and keep that information where you can get to it easily if the computer goes missing. The Police will need it.

2. Consider some form of software tracking and recovery program. If you do this, follow the instructions and create a guest account that thieves would be likely to use. This reduces the chances that they will reformat your machine and remove all chances of retrieving it.

3. Consider a variety of remote access software to allow you to act on the contents of the machine if it's stolen. Remotely deleting your account off the machine might be enough to give you peace of mind.

4. Use encryption for any sensitive information on the machine, or consider using FileVault. Remember that information you see as only mildly valuable might be very valuable in the hands of an identity thief.

5. If you have an iOS device (iPod, iPhone, iPad) take advantage of Find My iPhone immediately! Previously this was available as part of MobileMe, but Apple recently made this a free service for anyone with an iOS device that supports it. The remote wipe feature is fantastic and allows you to remotely delete all data on your iOS device. You're unlikely to get this device, but there's tremendous comfort in knowing it no longer has any of your data on it.

6. Regularly revisit this topic as your own personal security audit and implement new ideas and techniques.

These thoughts are overwhelming and awful, but address the topic now and you'll have a plan of action that can get you up and running with a minimum of effort and make 2011 a safer and more comfortable year!

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