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Securing your netbook experience

Catalin Cosoi | Sept. 17, 2009
Netbooks are creeping into the workplace, so be safe…or sorry.

Netbooks have long since ceased being the ultimate gadget you would share with your kid or take on the road to the seaside. They managed to sneak into the day-to-day office environment and you would often see these units as the main production environment on your colleagues desk. Now coming in a variety of operating system flavours, from dedicated ones such as the Xandros Linux fork to the highly popular Windows XP or even Vista and Windows 7 hacks, these puny yet extremely powerful mobile platforms are increasingly facing the perils targeting computer users: malware, spyware, spam and phishing attempts.

Malware, the pestering side effect of using Windows products, made its way both in desktop and mobile environments. Its for sure that everything that runs on Windows and is connected to the Web can get infected. Netbooks are no exception to the rule, so you shouldnt miss installing an anti-malware suite to ensure that malicious files exchanged over the Web or Intranet dont hit your system.

The firewall is a mandatory prerequisite. It allows you to focus on the important things in your life, as it would keep unwanted traffic outside the netbook, as well as restrict unknown applications access to the Web or local network. Choose a security solution that is less intrusive and able to tell which application is legitimate and which should be authorised by the user. After all, you wouldnt like wasting your time on training the firewall on which applications you trust and which you dont.

IM encryption features are also a welcome layer of protection, as instant messaging conversations can easily be eavesdropped (or sniffed) by prying users connected to the same public network. By encrypting such conversations, the attacker wont be able to read the plain text, even if they intercept data packets between the user and the network.

Spam and phishing are two of the most important security threats targeting the average Internet surfer. Enormous amounts of spam not only dramatically minimise productivity (imagine looking for an important business message in a thousand spam messages), but it can also come with malicious attachments to compromise local files or even network security at work.

Unlike malware, phishing attempts are platform-independent. Phishing can affect the Linux user as well as the Mac OS enthusiast or casual Windows fan. It is also the fiercest type of attack, since it can result in identity theft or even wipe out clean the users bank account. That is why you should consider picking a security solution that actively monitors Web pages and warns the user in case of a phishing attempt.

If you are planning ahead, you should take into account the possibility of losing your netbook, along with all the data in it. The presence of an anti-malware solution able to encrypt and decrypt sensitive files on the netbook could save you a lot of trouble in case of loss or theft. Online backup of critical data is also a winning card in case you lose your laptop. Not only are the files away from prying eyes, but they become accessible again to their legitimate owner.


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