SHCC WYSIWYG Article from May 2013

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the May 2013 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Getting a New Laptop Ready

by Don VanSyckel

I am getting my new laptop ready for the summer traveling season. I am backing up data. I am encrypting data. I am organizing data. I am upgrading software. Wow, I'm proving once again that it's a lot of work to have fun.

About the laptop, it's new to me but it's a used laptop I bought with WinXP Professional for the OS. Yeah, I know it's about 10 years but right now I don't have the time to learn a new OS. After reloading the OS so it has no hidden items in it, I allocated most of the space on C: drive to a encrypted container. The way this works is the file exists on the C: drive and can be seen on the C: drive. It can not be opened with any software. This file can not be dissected at the byte level to determine the data contained inside. If fact this file is not used as a file in any conventional way. Upon running the encryption software and entering the correct password the contents of this file is made available as a disk drive on a drive letter you specify. When the laptop is shutdown or restarted the access to the drive is gone and must be redone.

What many people believe is if they have a password on their laptop it are secure. This is far from true. The disk in any laptop can be removed and attached to another PC. At this point all the files are readable. So it is with my laptop's disk drive and it's files. The file which is the encrypted container can be seen, read, copied, etc. But just try and made heads or tails out of the contents of this file. You'll never do it.

Now for the backup. Actually I took a little detour here and decided to reorganize my data. I have my data organize into three categories. 1) data being used and changed routinely, docs, databases, checkbooks, 2) data you want with you which doesn't change, photo collection, and 3) data you don't want to delete but you don't regularly use it. Data in category one is backed up every day or two. Data in category two is backup occasionally when a new block of data is added. Data in category three is backed up infrequently when you age data out of the active data to the archived data. I choose to only bring the data in the first two categories over onto the encrypted drive on the laptop. that was the easy part, a copy. The more challenging task is data synchronization There are some solutions for this out there but many are not usable here for one reason or another. More on data sync another time.

So now I have an encrypted backup of much of my data that I can take with me. If it gets lost, stolen, or otherwise separated from me I don't have to worry about accounts and their passwords or other data which could lead to identity theft.

Since I don't trust any data to be just one place, I plan to place any encrypted container on a thumb drive and backup any new files, like photos, on the thumb drive. I don't plan on doing anything on the road with any of my other data, but you know Murphy lives everywhere and I figure if I have the data with me, I won't need it.

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