Keeping Your Rivals From Minding Your Business

14 Nov Keeping Your Rivals From Minding Your Business

New York Times, By DAVID STROM, November 12, 2008
AS more small businesses rely on e-mail and instant messaging for their communications, they would do well to use a number of inexpensive methods to preserve privacy and ensure that messages are read only by the intended recipient. Even the smallest of businesses can make use of these security tips and tools, none of which requires a computer guru for setup or maintenance: HANG ON TO YOUR LAPTOP In a survey by RSA Security, 10 percent of the respondents acknowledged they had lost their laptops or cellphones at some point. An obvious remedy is to keep the computer with you, rather than leaving it in a hotel room or locked car. “I had a laptop stolen about six years ago,” said Chris Angelini, managing editor of Tom’s Hardware, a Web site that reviews and recommends computer products. “Then I bought a smaller laptop just so I could take it everywhere with me.” Michael Callahan, chief marketing officer of Credant Technologies, a data security company based in Addison, Tex., said: “The real cost of losing all this data isn’t the price of the hardware. It is the cost to replace all your customer information.” LOCK OUT OTHERS When it’s not possible or practical to keep physical possession of the computer, you can take a number of protective measures to ensure that only its owner has access. One of the simplest is to use the built-in fingerprint reader on your laptop, if it has one. Another option is to secure a laptop’s files with an encryption program like TrueCrypt (, which is free, or PGP Endpoint, which sells for $50 ( These programs render all the files indecipherable if the laptop falls into the wrong hands. Some USB flash drives also come with encryption software.