Make your PC difficult to steal, easy to recover

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn

For little or no money, you can lower the chances that your computer will be targeted by thieves.

Take a few simple steps now to make your notebook and desktop PCs easier to recover should they ever be lost.

Secure your computers from real-world threats

A common saying in the computer world is that if an intruder has physical access to your computer, it’s not your computer anymore. I’ve written recently about ways to protect your system from malware embedded in Flash animations (Apr. 17) and harmful Web sites (May 1). But what about securing the computer itself?

The Seattle Times reported recently that Microsoft has given law-enforcement agencies a tool for decrypting passwords and analyzing computer activity and data. According to reports in Wired and elsewhere, Microsoft’s Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE) is a USB thumb drive that houses a collection of 150 off-the-shelf utilities. None of the programs were developed by Microsoft, and all of them are available to the public separately.

The programs, which include Windows Forensic Toolchest and RootkitRevealer, run from a script, so police officers don’t have to start each utility individually. By running the script from a USB drive, law-enforcement officials can collect information located in the PC’s RAM or available via a network connection. This data might be lost if the computer were unplugged and taken back to a lab.

If law-enforcement agencies and the public at large can get these tools, you have to wonder how the snoop apps might be used by co-workers who don’t have your best interests or privacy in mind.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-05-08: