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Data protection services
Protecting data on laptops is a two-pronged process: ensuring data is always available through backup and securing data from prying eyes through encryption. Most organizations separate these two efforts, according to Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, MA. Iron Mountain Inc., however, has merged the two processes in its PC Data Protection Suite, which combines its DataDefense and Connected Backup/PC products.

DataDefense encrypts data or destroys it. For encryption, it relies on Windows Encrypting File System (EFS), which is considered weak, especially vs. full-disk encryption. "It just makes it a little harder for someone to get the data," says Babineau. The product promises to destroy specified data on an AWOL laptop, but only if the organization has previously enabled policies directing it to do so. Such a policy would typically trigger the automatic deletion of the data as soon as the machine powers up if it hasn't connected to the network within a specified period of time. Still, "it would be hard to unequivocally state that the missing data was safe," adds Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, CO.

Connected Backup/PC backs up data to a central site, either at the company or to Iron Mountain. Both Iron Mountain products are sold on a per-seat basis, as licensed software or as a managed service. Connected Backup/PC is $9 per seat/month ($108 per laptop

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per year), while Data-Defense is $6 per seat/month ($72 per laptop per year). That's $180 per laptop per year for both products.

Finally, there are companies that offer remote data deletion for stolen laptops. Absolute Software Corp. and Everdream Corp., for example, offer products that remotely delete files when the stolen or lost machine is reconnected to the Internet. But security experts scoff at this approach as a general practice. A competent thief would have grabbed any data long before connecting it to the Internet. "It will catch the dumb criminals, so it is better than nothing," says Black Hat's Moss.

This was first published in February 2007

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