A removable hard drive could help secure data
With the recent exposures of critical identity information, both locally and nationally, organizations everywhere are taking account of their own practices to ensure that similar leaks do not happen.
Procedures and policies are being reviewed and updated, with, of course, a special eye to computers.
In these high-profile cases, however, it is apparent that it wasn't a technology problem at the root of the problem. Rather, it was simply human behavior that led to the exposures.
Certainly in the case of the U.S. Veteran's Administration leak, evidence suggests that the loss of data was clearly due to human error.
The VA is not alone. Many times in similar situations, leaks are attributed to human action, sometimes erroneous, sometimes intentional. So it's usually best to focus on the people-related side of policy and procedure, before worrying about technology.
But there are a few things you can do to your computers if they are being used to house or process critical data.
Of course, there's the standard password policy stuff. You know, mix numbers and letters, change it every 30 days, don't make it the name of your pet or kid or husband, and above all, don't put it on a post-it on your monitor or under your keyboard.
Unfortunately, when it comes to safeguarding data, the fact of the matter is that all computers are built with components that facilitate removal of data.
These include network cards, read-write CD/DVDs, and floppy drives. Even USB ports allow folks to plug in external drives and surreptitiously write data off.
So the most secure PC would be one devoid of all of these components. This gets problematic when items are directly attached to the motherboard such as USB ports and network cards.
In such cases, all you can do is disable these devices in the BIOS of the PC. Of course, you have to protect the BIOS with a password!
Taking this even a step further, using a removable hard drive allows you to take out the system's hard drive at the end of the work day and lock it up in a safe place.
Note that we're not talking about USB-based hard drives, but the type that sit in removable drive trays that can be locked in place with a key.
Of course, such a PC is only good in certain types of situations. Many folks simply cannot do their jobs with such a stripped-down machine.
But it's a good place to start and you can decide what to add on from here and how to control the use of such devices.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org