Further safeguard your data with these physical cybersecurity tools.
We've found the best way to secure one's digital assets is by using a multi-layered approach, like an onion. Each layer represents another barrier cyber thieves must penetrate to access your business-critical data. The firewall, for example, determines which traffic from the Internet is permitted to enter the company's internal IT network. Anti-virus systems seek out patterns of code known to be associated with malware, and login programs like Active Directory ensure that only properly credentialed employees can access a company device. When security measures such as these are used together, networks become exponentially more difficult to crack.
And yet, the tools we've mentioned so far as all digital. You still need to secure the physical hardware that powers this whole operation. Below we've listed a few handy tools that help you protect your hardware and office from intrusion.
Ever go into a mall or airport and notice those USB power stations? Pretty handy, right? Well they aren't completely safe either. Hackers try to compromise these terminals or modify them in such a way to steal data from devices plugging-in for a quick charge. The practice is referred to as juice-jacking. In fact, even some charge cables can now be modified to install ransomware or steal data from a device once connected.
Don't get us wrong. We're not saying every USB charging station is out to get you, but the risk is there. Luckily, devices like SyncStop and the Juice-Jack Defender are here to help. Generally priced under $15, these devices are an excellent investment/gift for any airport-bound road warrior.
Port blockers come in many different flavors. There are digital port blockers that work within your computer's software. There are also physical port blockers which wall-off the physical USB port itself. When loaded with the proper insert, the blocker prevents all access to the port.
These devices function by use of a key to lock the plastic inserts into place. This is a great way to secure one of the more subtle vulnerabilities on most most PCs without too much hassle. These work on every USB port, regardless of where on the PC or monitor it is located.
Despite being easy to use and even easier to find for cheap, these ingenious little security covers remain woefully underutilized among consumers. It would be nice if we lived in world wherein our personal electronics could not be turned against us, but sadly this isn't the case. Abundant evidence exists that webcams remain vulnerable to hacking attempts.
Webcam covers are simple assemblies of opaque plastic with sticky tabs for mounting. Installed over your laptop's webcam, the cover is slid closed once a user is finished with a given call. When closed, they block the camera from seeing anything. If someone does try and access your webcam (or you just forget to open it) everyone on the receiving end will be greeted with a black screen.
Note: Many Apple laptops and desktop monitors webcams include light sensors built-in with the hardware, adjacent to the camera. Accidentally block the sensor and the iMac adjusts screen brightness lower automatically. The most popular solution on Apple Forums is "don't do that".
While not a gadget per se, a quality VPN service is a great tool to secure your internet connection when working anywhere outside the office. A VPN encrypts your connection to the internet, ensuring that anyone who does intercept your data traffic (at a public WiFi spot, for example) cannot read it. Often available for around $100/year, a VPN subscription is an affordable and indispensable tool for anyone who needs to work securely from the road.
Useful as they are, not all VPNs are created equal. Always do your research before committing to a VPN. Also, bear in mind that if you're trying to hide your internet traffic from anyone and everyone, a VPN won't do that. While the service does hide your data traffic from the general internet, the VPN provider itself can access your browsing data if they so choose. Beware of VPNs with poor customer service, and read a few reviews before deciding on one. Here's a good VPN comparison article from Tom's Guide.
Products like YubiKey do pretty much the same thing universally. These are multi-factor authentication (MFA) devices that helps ensure users are, in fact, who they say they are. By requiring both a password and unique USB security key, a lost password does not necessarily mean a compromised account.
The downside to solutions like Yubikey is they tend to be more expensive than other MFA options. That said, when set up properly you can use a single Yubikey to log into nearly any device you own.
You may not have noticed but your laptop likely has a small hole on the side, less than a centimeter wide. If so then it’s time to change that. The slot itself is an attachment point for a Kensington security lock, mini-Kensington lock, depending on the type. The original has been in use since the 1990s to foil would-be laptop thieves.
Most of these cables are priced around $20 and will plug into the slot with a combination or keyed lock. The other end just needs to loop around something immobile (like a heavy desk leg) and you’re set. Measure the size of your Kensington locking port before you go to the store (or bring your laptop with you). You don't want to buy the wrong cable only to see it's wrong and drive right back to the store.
If you’re like most of us, one day you’d like to go completely paperless, but since that time hasn’t come just yet you probably end up with lots of hard copy documents you don’t want just sitting around. There are a ton of different paper shredders on the market, but which one do you chose?
There are a few things you need to consider when looking at shredders. First off there are seven different grades of paper shredder. If you’re interested in the basics then a level P-1 shredder will probably work fine. It shreds all documents into 3/8ths inch strips. If you deal with HIPPA and FACTA then a Level P-5, P-6 or P-7 needs to be where you start your search. Those shredders comply with federal privacy laws and can even be used by National Security Agencies, military bodies and government officials.
The next thing to worry about is how much you’re shredding; smaller shredders can handle up to 10 sheets at a time, Heavy duty shredders can shred more than 40 sheets at a time. The amount is going to be dependent on how many people are using it and how quickly you’d like to produce confetti, and the number of parades you'd like to participate in. Noise level and safety features can be another consideration as some shredders are louder than others and if you’re buying for a home office you should consider little fingers.
You’ve installed your webcam cover and sworn off easy to duplicate pin codes for your computer. Yet you don’t have the option of a fingerprint reader that doesn’t resemble the device a doctor attaches to your finger to take your pulse.
Well, you’re in luck because there are quite a few devices that plug into a USB port on your laptop or desktop PC that will almost sit flush against your computer’s port. Most of these will work seamlessly with Windows Hello, and they make them compact enough that you can carry them on a keychain or lanyard for multiple machines. Considering that they are only a device and don’t store any information, you won’t be compromised if you happen to lose them. If you are using a Mac, make sure you get a reader that works with iOS instead of Windows.
This is not the type of item you want to get on the cheap. Get it from a reputable company, and as top quality as you can afford. The better the reader, the less hassle you'll have, and the more likely you'll keep using it.
Tile or Similar Bluetooth Location Device (Bluetooth Tracker)
What if despite your best efforts, one of your devices has gotten lost or stolen? Recovery is still an option if you have mounted a Bluetooth tracker to the device. In the last few years Bluetooth trackers have been growing in popularity and have reduced in size. Some of the biggest names are Tile, TrackR, and Cube. But which of these should you pick? Here are a few things to consider.
Range and battery life need to be your two primary concerns. Most of the base level trackers have ranges of 100ft, but more expensive models can be up to 300ft. Be aware that range varies depending on location of device (indoors vs outdoors) among other things.
Battery life is a big deal too. Some early models of Tile were sealed so you couldn’t change out the battery, the newer models don’t follow this practice. If battery changes aren’t your thing then there is a model of Cube that gives you a magnetic charger and the battery will last two months on a single charge. The standard Bluetooth tracker with a replaceable battery will last about a year.
User base is another important thing to consider. Most modern Bluetooth trackers have a neat ‘community find’ feature. When you’ve marked a device lost, other devices in the area will take note of where they’ve last detected it, if it’s in range of those other devices and update its location to the host servers. This gives you an opportunity to locate the device if it’s been left someplace out of your own phones Bluetooth range or stolen.
There have been many stories of stolen devices found due to this feature, from bags and laptops, to pets and vehicles. Having a large user base can be invaluable.
This gadget is a security fob that ties into an account and generates a numeric password that randomly changes on a set timer. It’s a great way to set up a Multi-Factor Authentication device without a lot of fuss. You do have to have a program or account that supports the device.
The big down sides is that they can be expensive, so there are alternatives that are software based (Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator) that are free.
Do you have a computer security idea we haven’t discussed? Send it to us!