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4 laptop security trends you should know about

Aug 03, 20164 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

laptop shock
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For most business users, there’s one common device we all use that is still a common attack vector for hackers. We carry them with us everywhere, and we store most of our important files on the local drive, even if it’s just temporary. A laptop has more storage, more connection options, and more legacy apps than any smartphone or tablet.

For any business, it’s important to take laptop security seriously, even if you already have an endpoint security product in place and teach enterprise users about best practices. Hackers are industrious; they develop new techniques and know that one of the easiest ways to steal passwords, break into file archives, and intercept a confidential email is through a laptop.

These new techniques and products are not as widely known, yet they are effective for any laptop-carrying business worker who needs to fend off the latest attacks.

1. Laptop kill switch

Any security professionals who watched a recent Mark Zuckerberg live chat recently noticed he had a piece of tape over a webcam. Instead of using that low-tech approach, some laptops like the Purism Librem 13 have a kill switch that disables all wireless connections, the webcam, and the built-in microphone in a reliable way with one click.

“The popularity of hardware kill switches highlights just how much users distrust the software running on their own computers,” says Josh Lifton, the founder and CEO of Crowd Supply, a site for people to build and promote hardware projects. “The act of physically flipping a switch is empowering and rebuilds some of the trust between users and their machines.”

2. Microsoft Hello authentication

Laptop makers like Dell and Lenovo are starting to roll out new models that support Microsoft Hello. There’s an infrared camera that can scan your face and grant access, a way to eliminate passwords. Because the infrared camera scans so thoroughly, it’s difficult to hack. And, the camera and technology are built into the laptop and Windows 10, so it’s easy to use.

“It’s been striking to see the success Microsoft has enjoyed through security features in Windows 10 and Microsoft Hello,” says Charles King, an analyst with PUND-IT. “Earlier this year, the Pentagon ordered Windows 10 to be installed on over 4 million military PCs, in large part due to a desire to deploy a secure, standardized single PC platforms.”

3. Bulletproof Gmail access

One of the most common attack surfaces for any laptop user is to compromise your email, usually by guessing a password. Why is that? For hackers, gaining access to your email means accessing bank accounts, social media, and all of your files. Fortunately, Gmail provides two-factor authentication using a USB hardware key like the YubiKey. It means, for any laptop, you can only gain access to email if the key is present in the USB drive.

“Yubico’s vision is to enable internet users to have one single and secure key for securing access across from any device to any number of services,” says Ronnie Manning, a YubiKey spokesperson. “Additionally, they are crushproof, waterproof and require no drivers or battery. The YubiKey NEO hardware key also supports NFC for mobile authentication.”

4. Dell Advanced Threat Prevention

Dell has a taken a fairly radical approach with laptop security. Instead of pre-installing virus checkers and spyware scanners, which consume extra memory and need constant updating, their Advanced Threat Prevention software looks for suspicious activity. It does not connect to the cloud so it works at all times. It blocks a compromise within 1.2 milliseconds by looking at the underpinnings of the code rather than scanning for known virus and malware signatures.

“Dell threat detection with the built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies protect against zero day attacks and other advanced persistent threats, as well as targeted attacks like ransomware and spear phishing,” says King.


John Brandon is a technologist, product tester, car enthusiast and professional writer. Before becoming a writer, he worked in the corporate sector for 10 years. He has published over 8,500 articles, many of them for Computerworld, TechHive, Macworld and other IDG entities.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of John Brandon and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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