Defend Your Data

Upcoming ways to foil hackers and catch computer thieves

Personal Pocket Safe

Greg Neumaier

Identity theft used to involve someone rifling through your garbage. But now more than half a million laptops—full of tax returns and love letters—are stolen every year, estimates computer insurer Safeware. And even if your computer never leaves your sight, hackers can weasel into it over the Internet. Here are three technologies that will safeguard your digital data, whether it's on an office desktop or a stolen laptop.

Now

Keep Out Hackers

Move bank statements and other vital info off your PC and beyond hackers' reach. Instead, store it on the Personal Pocket Safe, a one-gigabyte USB key fob protected by military-grade encryption. Files are indecipherable until you enter a three- to 10-digit PIN, which could take 10 years of button-pressing to guess. Hackers won't find your files after you unplug, either, since the key holds its own data-viewing program and saves nothing to the PC. It will, however, save files to a secure online back-up service, so you can retrieve them if the key is lost or stolen.
Black Box Innovations Personal Pocket Safe
$45; takeanyware.com

Soon: Fall 2008
Keep Out Burglars

Phoenix FailSafe

Phoenix

Lenovo will be one of a number of laptop makers to introduce FailSafe, a program that lets you track and control your computer even if it's stolen. The system will be built directly onto the computer's motherboard, so crooks can't remove it without damaging the machine. If your notebook goes missing, use another computer to log onto a FailSafe server and select from options such as "retrieve data," "erase data" or "disable the CPU." When the thief connects to the Internet, the server sends your commands to the laptop, which beams back its approximate location (determined using its IP address, Wi-Fi hotspot address or phone-line info) and perhaps a webcam photo of the thief.
Phoenix FailSafe
Price not set; phoenix.com

Later: 2011
Let In The Right People

Grey Project

Carnegie Mellon University

Everyone knows you shouldn't reveal your passwords. But what if you're out sick and your coworker needs to borrow your computer? Carnegie Mellon University's Grey project lets you give people temporary access to your PC without the risk that they could later use your password to break in. It replaces ordinary login methods with smartphone access, in which your phone uses Bluetooth to send a computer an unfakeable digital access ID. To allow a pal onto your PC, simply send a one-time pass to his phone. The same system could also control office doors or file cabinets, so you could instantly revoke or grant entry whenever needed. A start-up company, GreenBack Systems, recently began developing Grey for possible use in workplaces in two to four years.
www.ece.cmu.edu/grey