Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to protect your business hardware

How to protect your business hardware

According to a Freedom of Information request made by ViaSat, over 180,000 digital devices were reported to the police as lost or stolen last year. Last year also saw Glasgow City Council fined £150,000 (around US$250,000, AU$270,000) for losing 74 unencrypted laptops that contained the bank details of 6,000 people.

With more sensitive information now being stored on portable digital devices, it is essential that all possible measures are always taken to protect them from theft.

"How an organisation can fail to notice that 74 unencrypted laptops have gone missing beggars belief," said Ken Macdonald, the ICO assistant commissioner for Scotland. "The fact that these laptops have never been recovered, and no record was made of the information stored on them, means that we will probably never know the true extent of this breach, or how many people's details have been compromised."

What's more, your business also has a responsibility to protect the data stored on these devices, as part of the Data Protection Act, which states:

"Where the information held on a laptop or other portable device could be used to cause an individual damage or distress, in particular where it contains financial or medical information, they should be encrypted."

Protect and find

Taking care of data protection is of course only one part of a robust IT protection policy. Clearly, for any business, the loss of sensitive data is a major concern. The good news is that your enterprise isn't powerless to act. There are a number of ways that all of today's digital technologies can be protected from theft:

• Visible deterrents

Often a simple warning that the device is traceable is all that is needed to prevent a theft. One method is to use a tamperproof sticker linking the serial number of the device to a database. Immobilise offers a cost effective method to protect any kind of IT equipment from theft.

SmartWater can be used to invisibly tag your tech property

• Invisible deterrents

Physical tags are all well and good, but what if you could secretly protect your digital devices without any outward sign? It has been possible for several years to forensically tag any devices with a special liquid. Companies including Retainaguard and SmartWater offer an ingenious way to invisibly tag objects with unique codes.

Kensington Lock
Tether your precious machine to your desk with a Kensington Lock

• Physical protection

There are a number of solutions on the market that can offer a level of physical protection. It must be remembered, however, that they are a deterrent and not a guarantee of avoiding theft. One of the best known is the Kensington Lock which offers a method of tethering your notebook PC to a desk or other secure object. Secure cases are also available for tablet PCs.

If you have a MacBook with Retina display, you can't use standard locks, as these notebook are too slim. The solution is to use a secure case such as the one from Maclocks.

Non-Apple users could consider STOP-Lock to protect their notebook PC.

Mac Pro Lock
The Mac Pro Lock is a great solution for securing this expensive piece of equipment

Users of the Mac Mini can also physically protect their computer by encasing it in a robust enclosure that is tethered to a desk. And if you are lucky enough to own a Mac Pro, this too can be protected by adding a bracket to the machine that enables it to be secured to a desktop.

While a great deal of today's digital equipment is used outside of the relative security of an office environment, it is still possible to protect your business' devices. Trust has an alarm system that can be attached to most digital devices, as can the Kensington Proximo. And ChargerLeash offers a charging cable with a built in alarm.

Choose your weapons

As there are a great number of different security and theft prevention devices available, which one(s) should you choose? Ask yourself these questions to decide on the perfect anti-theft devices to protect your business' digital assets:

• Will all the devices only be used within an office space?

If so, physically tethering the devices to desks or other immovable objects will be efficient and cost effective using solutions like Kensington Locks.

• Do you need to protect smartphones and tablet PCs?

If so, using a protective case that has anti-theft hardware built into it will be the most effective option.

• Are any of the devices used outside of a secure office environment?

If so, visible deterrent stickers can be effective. Also, match a physical protection system to the specific device for added safety.

• Will the devices be used in any insecure locations?

If so, attaching an alarm to the device will instantly notify the user that their device has been moved.

Multi-layered defence

Often, using a number of security systems together will deliver the best solution. SmartWater is a good example here. A notebook PC could be tethered to a desk, but if stolen, the SmartWater tag would still be able to identify the device it was used with, and who stole the machine.

Ultimately the level of threat that your company perceives will determine the precautions your business takes to prevent the theft of digital hardware. As much business is now done on the move, protecting all the devices in use is a must not only for commercial reasons, but also to fully comply with legal requirements regarding the protection of data.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Chromecast

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Chromecast

Proving the e-tailer still has a few surprises up its sleeve, Amazon announced the Fire TV Stick on Monday, a ridiculously affordable version of the set-top hardware that appears to have left little behind on its way to the shrink-ray.

Of course, stick-sized media streamers are somewhat old hat by now, with that path already well traveled by Google's Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick - and given that Fire TV Stick won't arrive until just before Black Friday, we don't know for sure if it's as amazing as Amazon says it is.

In the meantime, we've got technical specifications and other product details to go by, which is enough to pore over and see how Fire TV Stick stacks up against the competition.

Roku Streaming Stick in HDTV
Sticking out like a sore thumb


Let's face it: There's only so much engineers can do with a device not much bigger than a stick of gum, so buyers shouldn't expect too many design miracles from Amazon, Roku or Google.

The trailblazing Chromecast is easily the most shapely of the bunch, adopting a more rounded look toward the rear of its 72 x 35 x 12 mm frame, while the Roku Streaming Stick makes up for its otherwise squarish 79 x 28 x 13 mm (3.1 x 1.1 x 0.5 inch) looks by adopting the same purple hue as the company's logo.

For being the new kid on the block, the Fire TV Stick is pretty utilitarian when it comes to design - it's simply a 84.9 x 25 x 11.5 mm (3.3 x 1.0 x 0.5 inch) black rectangle with the Amazon logo emblazoned on one side, a standard male HDMI Type A connector at one end, and a micro-USB (for power only) on the opposite side.

Looks may be one thing, but any of these devices are likely to be unplugged and tossed into a bag or purse for taking entertainment on the road; thankfully, they're all quite light and portable, with the Chromecast packing on the most weight at 34 grams (just shy of 1.2 ozs.), followed by Fire TV Stick at 25.1 grams (0.9 oz.) and the Roku Streaming Stick at 18.1 grams (0.64 oz.).

When all is said and done, we still prefer the Chromecast for a more unique design, although points could be awarded to Amazon for its ability to make the otherwise generic-looking Fire TV Stick pretty much disappear onto the back of most HDTV sets, which is more than we can say for Roku's device, which sticks out like a sore thumb.

Amazon Fire TV Stick with remote
No-frills remote


When Chromecast was released more than a year ago, Google was quick to point out that no remote control would be required - after all, the required smartphone, tablet or Chrome browser on a desktop computer essentially already offer complete control over playback.

Roku and Amazon have other ideas about this concept, given their respective Streaming Stick and Fire TV Stick devices actually pull content from the internet only upon the command of a remote control or mobile app.

That makes the Roku Streaming Stick or Fire TV Stick a better choice for viewers who prefer to hold a traditional remote in their hands, which are powered by a pair of AA batteries.

Roku's RF-based remote resembles the one that comes bundled with its current-generation set-top boxes, complete with shortcut buttons for favored nation channels M-GO, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Blockbuster On Demand; unfortunately, Roku skimped on the headphone jack featured on its more expensive hardware.

Amazon likewise cheaped out on the remote for its Fire TV Stick, which offers only basic navigation and playback buttons and none of the voice search or game controller functionality full-sized Fire TV owners enjoy.

However, Amazon is separately offering both the $29.99 Fire TV Voice Remote as well as the $39.99 Fire Game Controller, each of which also happens to be fully compatible with Fire TV Stick right out of the box.

HP is rolling out two confusing new 'Pro' Android tablets

HP is rolling out two confusing new 'Pro' Android tablets

HP is readying two new Android tablets with a focus on the business world: the HP Pro Slate 12 and HP Pro Slate 8.

The 12 has a 12.3-inch 1600 x 1200 display and 32GB of storage, while the Pro Slate 8 has a 7.7-inch 2048 x 1536 display and 16GB.

Both feature Snapdragon 801 chips, 2GB of memory, Android 4.4 KitKat, microSD and nanoSIM support, and front and rear cameras, plus Bluetooth, NFC, and a microUSB port with HDMI-out capabilities via an adapter.

Both new HP tablets are also compatible with the HP Duet pen, an ultrasonic stylus that transcribes your scribblings to the tablet screen no matter what surface you're actually writing on.

That's just confusing

Note that the new HP Pro Slate 8 is apparently different from the HP Slate 8 Pro that launched earlier this year.

However although the HP Pro Slate 12 has a home on HP's website, its smaller sibling is missing - even though according to Liliputing it was up there at one point.

We've asked HP to clarify why the Pro Slate 8's listing was taken down, as well as further details like pricing and release date, and we'll update if we hear back.