Computer Forensics Expert: Traveling? Treat Your Laptop Like Cash!

In today’s society, traveling with a laptop seems like an everyday occurrence, whether for “mobile office” or just personal use. There are some things you should be aware of when traveling with your laptop. Since it is portable and portable items can be easily lost or stolen. Here are a few tips to help avoid heartache and an employer’s wrath.

#1 Treat your laptop like cash. Some of the information might be replaceable. Other information, however, may be irreplaceable. There is also the risk of someone using the information to further their cause (attempt to sell it back to you, or one of your competitors). If nothing else, it will be the hell and countless hours you have to go through to get another machine and get it setup just like the laptop which disappeared.

#2 Never leave your laptop alone and exposed, ANYWHERE! Not in the car, not in a conference, not anywhere someone armed with a crowbar or just a bag can easily grab it. Airports are especially notorious for this type of theft.

#3 Invest in a security lock. These long steel cables can be used to lock your laptop to a bench, table, or other stationary object, via a dial (or padlock) which can only be removed by someone with the code or key. Otherwise, the computer has to be damaged to remove it from this lock. One way to increase the difficulty of taking your laptop from an exposed area is to run the cable through the handles of your brief case, thus adding a damper to a swift pull. That is: if your handles absorb some of the tug of someone trying to make off with your laptop, it will be much harder for them to yank the lock mechanism from your laptop. We recommend that employees be required to use a lock even if their laptop is in the trunk of the car. If attending a conference, the laptop should be locked to a table or some other object which is difficult to move. The idea is to deter the casual thief. Most thefts are non-targeted and opportunistic. By placing a lock on your laptop you are preventing this from possibly happening. A good lock costs about $25 and can be found at most electronics retailers.

#4 Never carry written passwords with your computer. If you must write down passwords (we recommend you never do, but we realize this is not realistic for some) keep them in a separate bag or in your wallet. So in the event your computer is stolen, you still have your passwords which can changed if needed.

Computer Forensics and Hacking Expert Witness: Howdy, I’m a Hacker!

The most common visual is the pale nerd in his mother’s basement who is getting into his university server to change his rivals grades to failing ones. Then there are the various Hollywood depictions which show “master criminals” manipulating traffic signals and financial markets. This is a fairly recent use of the word “hacker” and for years before it had a very different meaning.

In the early 90’s when Linux (a popular free computer operating system) was introduced, the word hacker did not even exist. Users of these operating systems referred to themselves as “hackers”, only due to their ability to manipulate and reuse programming code for their own purposes, outside of its originally intended purpose. If you think of them as chefs, everyone has that one basic recipe for lobster bisque, but each chef will put their own spin on the recipe to make it their own. They were / are very competent programmers that had a passion for writing their own programs.

The majority of these “hackers” used their skills for good. For example, helping a friend who needed new software to help keep track of inventory at a grocery store. Then there are some more famous hackers, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who made a lot of money creating a consumer computer for the home. A small percentage used their skills for less than honorable purposes, such as Kevin Poulsen and Adrian Lamo. These dishonorable hackers are what gave the noble hobby of computer manipulation its bad name.

Due to the large amount of media attention on the subject, in recent years, the term “hacker” has become synonymous with crime and people using their skills to steal and create fear. While this may be true in some instances, it is not the majority. Now we distinguish good from evil with (figurative) hats:

“White hat hacker” or “Ethical Hacker” is person who hacks for good to find their own or other organization’s vulnerabilities and report them for improvement.

When the term “Black” is useed along with “Hacker” they are considered to be someone who hacks for evil maliciousness or personal gain.

“Gray hat hackers” are in that limbo status between the two who may offer to repair a vulnerability for a fee.

“Blue hat hacker” are usually outside computer security consulting firms who test software or systems for bugs looking for exploits so they can be closed prior to software or system release.

Remember: not all hackers are bad.