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Encryption Security

Of Encrypted Hard Drives and "Evil Maids" 376

Posted by kdawson
from the take-the-second-factor-with-you dept.
Schneier has a blog piece about Joanna Rutkowska's "evil maid" attack, demonstrated earlier this month against TrueCrypt. "The same kind of attack should work against any whole-disk encryption, including PGP Disk and BitLocker. ... [A] likely scenario is that you leave your encrypted computer in your hotel room when you go out to dinner, and the maid sneaks in and installs the hacked bootloader. ... [P]eople who encrypt their hard drives, or partitions on their hard drives, have to realize that the encryption gives them less protection than they probably believe. It protects against someone confiscating or stealing their computer and then trying to get at the data. It does not protect against an attacker who has access to your computer over a period of time during which you use it, too."
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Of Encrypted Hard Drives and "Evil Maids"

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  • surprise (Score:5, Informative)

    by jacquesm (154384) <j @ w w.com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:40AM (#29845303) Homepage

    physical access > digital security

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EvanED (569694)

      Actually one of the points of full disk encryption is that it gives you a measure of protection even when physical security is compromised.

      Why on earth would do you do it otherwise?

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        For the thrill of possibly losing all your data if you ever forget your password?

        • Bitlocker? (Score:3, Informative)

          Bullshit.

          The bootloader is signed. Use this in combination with the TPM chip (embedded smartcard) on your laptop - AS SPECIFIED BY THE GUIDANCE - and use a PIN. There's no loading the disk or getting at the data without cracking AES. At least once.

          So... Start your engines.

          • Re:Bitlocker? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mlts (1038732) * on Friday October 23, 2009 @11:07AM (#29846271)

            The best BitLocker protection is a combination of PIN + TPM + USB flash drive. This way, if a thief rips off your laptop, but you have your USB flash drive with you (either in your wallet, around the neck, or on a keychain), you are pretty much assured that they will not have access to data, no matter what they try.

            For additional protection since Windows 7 has been released to everyone, perhaps consider BitLocker To Go for all external drives. With this, you can encrypt your external disks using (I hope) a decent passphrase, have the drives available for mounting automatically, and save the recovery volume key offsite somewhere secure.

            • Re:Bitlocker? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Stu101 (1031686) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:08PM (#29847801) Homepage

              I like the theory. However one thing to bear in mind is that the integrity of Bitlocker itself is questionable. I know for a *FACT* that "3 letter agencies" have backdoor keys. Ask any IT forensics person. Microsoft even have closed, invite only sessions for enforcement agencies to show them how to bypass bitlocker security.

              That in itself means that the government/big brother is guarenteed to be able to bypass MS based secruity. Ask yourself this, can you see Osama Bin laden using bitlocker to protect his stuff ?

              Take this further, do you want the government to have access to your files, just a quick phone call to MS and wham, all your shit laid bare.

              • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:11PM (#29848941)

                "Citation Needed."

                Sorry, but I'll need something more than the word of some random guy on the Internet to believe this for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that such a backdoor would be something security testers would notice.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by cbhacking (979169)

                As somebody who actually worked on BitLocker during an internship at MS, that's bullshit. I was working directly with the metadata and its parser, including the recovery keys. There was absolutely no "TLA Agency" recovery key. The master key for each volume is encrypted and stored on the volume itself (and each volume has a unique key). This is exactly the key used to decrypt the drive, and is never stored in plaintext anywhere. How do you get around this?

                You can't store a recovery key for each volume in so

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It gives you a measure of protection if your device is stolen. It does nothing for you if you are worried about an attacker who has access to the system without having to steal it.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Expanding on the other reply - physical access with (sorry for the car analogy) the key in the ignition > all.

      Basically, they need physical access with the machine ON (and a way to bypass any locking mechanism that is in place)

      • Re:surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aetherworld (970863) on Friday October 23, 2009 @10:15AM (#29845697) Homepage

        Slow news day?

        That article is actually like saying that there is no point to install a very expensive and secure door lock on your front door because it doesn't help you when you go get groceries and leave your door open. Duh. I'm sure most people realize that the point of disc encryption is not to protect your data while it's unencrypted in memory.

        • Re:surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Golddess (1361003) on Friday October 23, 2009 @11:41AM (#29846655)
          Except it's not quite like that. It sounds more like you lock your door and leave to get groceries. Before you get back, someone comes up to the door and installs something that can scan the key that is used to unlock the door. That person leaves, you return, unlock the door, and go in. You later head out again, locking the door behind you, and that other person comes up, recovers their device, makes a duplicate key based on the device's contents, and now has access to your home.
          • Re:surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

            by aetherworld (970863) on Friday October 23, 2009 @12:20PM (#29847125) Homepage

            True. I didn't really see it that way. Thanks for pointing it out.

            Still, it's kind of obvious that once someone gains physical access to your device, they can do anything with it. You could swap the keyboard with one that records all keystrokes or simply install a physical key logger device or do whatever you want with it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by witherstaff (713820)
            The Feds did this to bypass PGP [wired.com] on a mobster's computer almost a decade ago. Well not exactly a bootloader, they put in a keylogger. Gee, if a Gman thought of this back in double ought, why is this making news for nerds today?
      • by Sancho (17056)

        If they can compromise the bootloader or BIOS, then they can do it with the machine off. But I believe that Rutkowska realized the implications after moving from Windows to OS X. OS X does not offer full disk encryption--rather, it encrypts your home directory. Thus it's likely still possible to compromise in this manner.

        And of course, she focuses on Truecrypt, which also doesn't do whole disk encryption. However it's a popular geek tool for encryption, and as such it's pretty relevant.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Shouldn't be. Encryption has to keep secrets secret. What is proposed in the article is technically feasible, I don't see in the name of what we should abandon it
    • Re:surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MikeURL (890801) on Friday October 23, 2009 @10:40AM (#29846007) Journal
      To be fair, this news may have come as quite a shock to kdawson. I guess maybe he thought that TrueCrypt used a psychic link to determine who was accessing the hardware.

      To help kdawson I present the following:
      1. If your PC will not power up--make sure it is plugged in
      2. Double-clicking .exe files can be risky
      3. Back up your data

      Please feel free to add others. i think we need to take kdawson under our wing and help him out with the rudiments of technology. Some may suggest that a /. ed should know these things already but that is retrograde thinking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      No no no, the suprise is that -hotel maids- are teh 1337 haxorz.

      I guess it couldn't be TOO bad, whenever I forget to put the "do not disturb" sign on my hotel room when I leave, the maids usually don't steal my stuff, they just neatly organize it. If they sneak into my computer, they'd probably defrag the hard drive and that's about it.

  • by purpledinoz (573045) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:40AM (#29845309)
    I'm imagining a bunch of geeks dressed up in maid outfits.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:40AM (#29845311)

    Seriously, if you're worried about some hacker assassin breaking into your house or office and installing a bootloader, you're either doing something REALLY secretive (in which case the computer probably shouldn't even be on a network to upload any data back in the first place) or you're the kind of person who thinks Obama has your name on an "important persons" list and is coming for your guns. If someone has physical access to your machine and has the skills to install a bootloader, you're pretty much boned anyway, encryption or not (encryption isn't going to stop a simple keylogger). That's nothing new. Fortunately, for the vast vast majority of us, there are very few hacker black operatives who are running around breaking into hotel rooms just so they can get a single Visa number from Bob the dipshit middle manager. Newsflash Bob, YOU'RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT!

    Oh, and I love how the article calls the prospect of a ninja hacker hotel maid sneaking a bootloader onto your laptop and then sneaking back into your room later to retrieve the data a "likely scenario." What hotels is this guy staying at anyway?

    • by Umuri (897961) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:45AM (#29845345)

      Offhand, i'd say any prominent high-class hotel that might be used by foreign businessmen on a trip.

      I mean, you do have a point, bob the middle manager isn't that important. However there are quite a few business people who this really would be that important to. Corporate espionage is high, and you know china has been doing focused attacks over the network.

      Sneakernet is always faster, so if they can train up a few pretty women, pay them a decent programmers wage to have them steal stuff that is the work of 10 engineers or even hundreds, that's a pretty sound economic payoff don't you think?

      I think stuff like this has it's purpose, and those who really are at risk need to be educated about it. For the other 95% of us, i think it's useful info to be aware about, just like don't leave your purse out visible in your car. Sure it probably won't happen, but there are always people who would.

      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:54AM (#29845457)

        Bob the middle manager isn't that important, but Bob routinely sends email to Dave the director and Charles the CxO. By trojaning Bob's computer you can start to build a pretty decent profile of the corporate activities going on within, and above, Bob's department ... including travel schedules of some other bigger fish in the corporate pond.

        Do this to 3 or 4 Bobs, and pretty soon you'll have an understanding of the corporate org chart, upcoming projects, and most importantly you'll be able to target your future EvilMaid attacks with pinpoint accuracy.

    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:48AM (#29845383) Homepage Journal

      You vastly underestimate the number of people traveling internationally and engaged in activities that the host governments find to be of interest.

    • That and if your data is that important then you have your screensaver to be password protected. OS X does it, Windows Does it, Linux Does it, Unix does it....

      I don't know about you but if I leave my laptop in my hotel room. I tend to lock it up in the safe. (normally I power it off, etc...) It seems to me this will only work for a very ideal set of conditions. And just posted to make people not secure their laptop.

      • Very few of those do so _automatically_. For almost all such systems, you have to manually select password protected screen locking. Also "screen locking" for X servers does not prevent console access on the other virtual terminals, if you've left an active login on them, or simply killing the X session and grabbing the login shell of the user created their shell session manually.

        Even more fun is available when careless laptop users run VPN sessions with such clients left unlocked, so anyone visiting their

      • by mea37 (1201159)

        Those defenses sound good, until you think about them in a world where this attack might be in play. GP's assertion notwithstanding, there are people who really should be this paranoid in their understanding of the limits of security; to those people, what good is the hotel room safe? You're in a position where you have to worry about an evil maid, but you assume the hotel has really provided you with a box that only you will be able to open? Come on.

        As for screensaver locks... at best that's going to fo

    • Oh, and I love how the article calls the prospect of a ninja hacker hotel maid sneaking a bootloader onto your laptop and then sneaking back into your room later to retrieve the data a "likely scenario." What hotels is this guy staying at anyway?

      French hotels. Never seen "Nikita", have you?

    • That's true, but what if it's Jimmy the WhiteHat attending DefCon with a very nice implementation of a much better hack? A vulnerability in a Blackberry device, for instance, which forwards email silently to another address? A list of hacks for Macbooks to win the cash prizes?

      $10k to another blackhat in prize money is one thing, $Xm from the card details gathered using a zero-day exploit is probably big enough motivation to get a sister or cousing a job in a Vegas hotel for a month prior...
  • Leave your computer unprotected somewhere where you cant see it and someone can use it.

    Encryption doesn't really have anything to with that and anyone not stupid should understand that.

  • Just another good reason to take your bootloader with you on a thumb drive or other type of removeable media.
  • by arabagast (462679) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:45AM (#29845347) Homepage

    If you are the kind of person that are in the danger zone of this happening (not that you would leave a computer with such sensitive information in your hotel room.); You would probably feel a lot better if you were able to checksum the bootloader when returning, maybe from an external usb drive. This would offcourse run it's own OS, not being done from the bootloader(for obvious reasons).

    • If you are the kind of person that are in the danger zone of this happening (not that you would leave a computer with such sensitive information in your hotel room.); You would probably feel a lot better if you were able to checksum the bootloader when returning, maybe from an external usb drive. This would offcourse run it's own OS, not being done from the bootloader(for obvious reasons).

      Wouldn't it be a lot easier simply to use a boot loader from said USB stick?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        Wouldn't it be even easier to simply keep all the important data on the USB stick? And run the OS off a R/O CD?

    • by Terrasque (796014) on Friday October 23, 2009 @11:48AM (#29846739) Homepage Journal

      That won't work if the attacker use a hardware keylogger (which can be inserted under a laptop's keyboard - how often do you check there?).

      An easier way to checksum bootloader is via a tamper-proof hash stored in the encrypted area. But that require that the computer is actually telling you the truth, which is doubtful if they already went far enough to change the bootloader. But then again, your idea also require that the computer is honest... They could have replaced the bios itself, or made a small bootloader that worked its magic fast and silent, and then proceeded like a normal boot, starting from usb like bios would do..

      I was thinking of this a few months ago, actually, and the only solution I found was to either always have it with you (impractical), or store it in a trustworthy safe (could also be slightly impractical to haul around). And still you have to be certain of your environment (spy cameras, tempest type snooping, in some cases recording the sound of your key clicks...).

      Also, if you want it connected to a network, well darnit, you got another can of worms.. First, you need to update it, or else its vulnerable fast. Second, you need to trust the OS providers and the actual update. Could someone have stolen the signing key and faked an update? Is the company / employees really trustworthy? Are you sure the developer's machine isn't hacked and is used to spread dangerous code?

      I tried to make a system where I (if I had a lot of resources) couldn't possibly find any way around. I just couldn't find any. All of them had a potential loophole.

      My conclusion was : Pick an approperiate level of paranoia and go from there. And never expect it to be 100% secure.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:46AM (#29845357)

    You could have found the evil bartender.

    You leave your laptop at the hotel and you go out to take a beer. There, you meet the evil bartender, who because of a common past becomes your friend and starts inviting you to more and more beer. Then he closes the bar and you both go to a strip club where you meet the evil bartender's girlfriend and her friend who we shall call "Foxette".

    The next morning, you wake up in an unknown appartment with Foxette and a guy you don't even know. You quickly get out of there and go to work, with such a massive headache than when asked about the laptop's full disk encription, you answer is "the what?".

  • by sam0737 (648914) <sam AT chowchi DOT com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:51AM (#29845423)
    I didn't read the RTFA, but aren't MSFT's BitLocker supposes to validate the boot path (from BIOS code to bootloader up to the BitLocker decrypter) with the help of the TPM chip?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I didn't read the RTFA, but aren't MSFT's BitLocker supposes to validate the boot path (from BIOS code to bootloader up to the BitLocker decrypter) with the help of the TPM chip?

      It does, and thus the attack doesn't work here:
      "The key used for the disk encryption is sealed (encrypted) by the TPM chip and will only be released to the OS loader code if the early boot files appear to be unmodified."
      Now we'd just need someone to reverse the decision that TPMs are all evil and should not be used.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cyberax (705495)

      Yes. You can have almost perfect _physical_ security with TPM.

      Alas, most of developers are allergic to it, even if it has good uses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rcamans (252182)

      A lot of designs do not have the tpm chip implemented. I know, because I am a designer, and most of the design requirements I fill do not include or want a tpm chp. This will only be in all systems when Intel makes it a part of their system chips (what used to be the north bridge / south bridge combination, and is now the PCH or silverthorne).

    • The problem with bitlocker is that it's only part of the ultimatextremeultra most expensive version of Windows. Most people would be too cheap to get that version, even if they knew what the benefit was. So your home computer probably doesn't have it. Your company provided laptop probably also doesn't have it, unless you're fairly high up in importance.

      • by sam0737 (648914)
        Even a Thinkpad T40 I bought in 2003 has TPM. Although I am not sure if it's the version required by BitLocker (BitLocker requires v1.2 IIRC)

        I believe most Centrino laptop have that included. Or is that only Thinkpad?

        At any case, if you are that paranoid because you are hiding child porn photo, or the company values the data so much, either you or the company should have study this matter in depth, understand what the hell the TPM is, and pick a suitable solution.

        Thinking of this, Windows does provide a pre
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mlts (1038732) *

        Windows 7 is different from Vista in the way businesses and enterprises use it. Vista had two editions that were activated via an internal KMS system (very important when you have thousands of PCs and do not want them touching the Internet for activation). Windows 7 has only one edition that has this functionality, the Enterprise edition. This is available via volume license key agreements. Other than the MAK/KMS model of activation, this edition is the exact same as Ultimate which has BitLocker, Branch

  • At least not with TPM hardware store, that's kind of the whole point. I'm surprised Bruce isn't aware of this combination.
  • Just use a CD (Score:3, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:56AM (#29845475) Homepage

    When you encrypt your system partition with Truecrypt it forces you to make a CD (you actually have to burn and mount it before it will let you continue). This CD contains a copy of the bootloader and encryption key. If you always boot off that CD it won't help to attacker to replace the bootloader on the HDD.

    Of course they could target the CD but at least you can keep a mini CD in your wallet at all times.

  • It is very hard to prevent compromises when the attacker has physical access to the machine.

    One thing that might slow/stop the evil maid is a BIOS boot passwd or BIOS disk passwd. This denies the maid a boot or any disk access (respectively). Of course, she could always pop the disk out and write it on her own machine. Unless key [boot] parts were BIOS encrypted.

    As usual, security always has some cost for the user and has to be balanced against benefits [reduced risk of loss].

  • What brainless clod would leave a laptop with sensitive data on it lying around in a hotel room anyway, encrypted disk or not?

    This is a non story - as everyone has known for decades , someone with access to the machine can do what they like. And they probably will.

    • by Sancho (17056)

      The whole point is that people think that encryption is some sort of magic bullet that will prevent them from having to think about security. So if they think that they're secure, they think that there's no need to lug the laptop around. If it gets stolen, who cares? The thieves won't get any information off of it.

      This story is trying to promote the fact that there's more to it.

    • > What brainless clod would leave a laptop with sensitive data on it lying
      > around in a hotel room anyway, encrypted disk or not?

      Any "C-level" executive. After all, he played golf with a senior marketing executive of the encryption system vendor just last week and was assured that it was absolutely secure. And he knows that's true because he is such a fine judge of character. Besides, the guy let him win.

  • Easily foiled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hogwash McFly (678207) on Friday October 23, 2009 @10:00AM (#29845521)

    Evil maids are easy to spot because of their goatees.

  • by dachshund (300733) on Friday October 23, 2009 @10:12AM (#29845647)

    You can see why it's called the "evil maid" attack; a likely scenario is that you leave your encrypted computer in your hotel room when you go out to dinner, and the maid sneaks in and installs the hacked bootloader. The same maid could even sneak back the next night and erase any traces of her actions.

    Maybe if she's an idiot. Once you've installed your own bootloader, it can neatly remove itself. (After installing malware, or transferring the encryption keys and data it needs over the network.) Why in the world would the maid unnecessarily repeat the riskiest part of the entire attack?

    But more to the point, it must be a slow week. Why are "serious" security researchers even wasting time on something this obvious? Of course your software-based hard disk encryption is hosed in the event that an attacker gets hold of your machine and can alter the bootloader. Hell, the really sophisticated bad guys aren't even going to do anything this difficult or risky. After all, the encryption key has to be in RAM somewhere whenever you're using software-based encryption (hardware encryption excluded). A well-engineered piece of malware will recover it, and two-factor authentication isn't going to help you.

    Even trusted boot will only get you so far against a motivated adversary with this much sophistication. Don't leave your vital computing equipment behind in your hotel room.

  • I do an md5checksum of grub and /boot from a USB key which on me at all times every time I boot my computer. Seriously, I don't know of any other foolproof way to defend against this. I do know where my encrypted laptop hard drive is most of the time.
  • If you are really a paranoid traveler, then you should put the bootloader on a stick (and possibly one half of the key too, the other in your head).

    I read a description somewhere how to make it work best. Install a bare bone windows OS on one partition, put on some icons for crap so it does not look too shrink wrapped. Put your real OS (preferably not a Windows one, as this would make security mostly futile anyway) on a second partition.

    Then make your stick the primary boot medium, hdd the second one. Maid

  • This means on boot a checker runs from *inside the encrypted volume* to see if anything has changed. It should notice if the bootloader no longer checksums the same (so far as I understand).

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      "This means on boot a checker runs from *inside the encrypted volume* to see if anything has changed."

      Unless the hacked bootloader deletes or disables the fingerprint checker? Seriously, I can't see how verifying the bootloader *AFTER* you've already provided the password/key to decrypt the volume, offers you *any* protection? At that point, it's pretty much game over, no?

  • by sootman (158191)

    So this could be considered a type of maid-in-the-middle attack?

  • ...will she install that bootloader, when there in no BIOS, but an encrypted coreboot or EFI system, that is protected against meddling with, by a TPM (chip) under YOUR control? (Something possible with the Lenovo ThinkPads for example. In which case it is a good concept, as opposed to what the media companies planned to do with it.)

    Hardware security against hardware meddling. Simple as that.

    Now the next level would be physically modifying the motherboard. But even against that you can protect yourself. By

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Could you please point me to a subnotebook with TPM and which is compatible with coreboot? As in, I can already use grub as a coreboot payload by doing nothing but compiling.

    • by BranMan (29917)
      No, the whole point of all this was to be able to compromise your data WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING IT. Beating a key out of you kind of defeats that purpose. Otherwise, why not just have a maid deliver towels (so they can verify you are on your laptop), then break in with guns and take it - long AFTER you've decrypted the volumes they want? I've worked on things classified Secret and Top Secret. Everyone knows they cannot truly protect such data - but they take great pains to KNOW when it may have been
    • That you [...] take with you.

      That's what I meant. I deleted a sentence after previewing, and forgot to take the "both" out.

      Oh, and of course, if someone kicks in the door while you are using the system, you have to rip out the card, lock the system down, and destroy the card, to be actually secure. (The full device-to-device encryption protects against RAM and cache attacks, if it's properly done (= the RAM and cache contents always being encrypted.)

    • by russotto (537200)

      ...will she install that bootloader, when there in no BIOS, but an encrypted coreboot or EFI system, that is protected against meddling with, by a TPM (chip) under YOUR control? (Something possible with the Lenovo ThinkPads for example. In which case it is a good concept, as opposed to what the media companies planned to do with it.)

      I think you're right that Trusted Computing could secure against this attack. But an "evil maid" need not mess around with bootloaders. She'll install a hardware keylogger. O

  • This isn't a new attack; it's just a specific variant of a "black bag" job; same idea as installing a hardware keylogger. I think there's likely a way to use Trusted Computing to defeat this particular variant, basically the TCM wouldn't give out keys to an untrusted bootloader.

  • And for cases where national security is concerned, probably more a likely attack vector than any other. So the likely defense is some kind of boot-time check of the loader's integrity, which is just as possible. For example, a utility to do this on a USB fob. Then of course the you have to remember to take your fob with you...

  • by f0rtytw0 (446153)

    what is more likely to happen
    http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]

  • by X.25 (255792) on Friday October 23, 2009 @11:26AM (#29846483)

    that I got out of that shithole called 'security world'.

    It was really fun and interesting until 2003, but these days it's a joke.

    Hey, even in year 1997 we all realized that once someone has physical access to your computer - you are fucked.

    And here we are, in year 2009, reading "research" telling us things we all already know.

    Sigh...

    P.S: maid doesn't need to install any fancy shit, a keylogger will do just fine.

  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:32PM (#29849263) Homepage Journal

    Well, #1... security measures only serve as deterrents. There will be a way around every security device, the only metric you really need to worry about is whether your:

      (cost to circumvent) / (value of assets + cost to secure)

    ratio is conveniently higher than your neighbors (ha ha, security people hate any mention of "convenience").

    So... #2: by far the best thing you can do is to make sure your assets are relatively worthless compared to what other "target" have. Live a frugal life. Keep offsite backups of your photo albums. Don't keep secrets. And if you do, bury them with enough other crap (maybe using steganography if necessary) to decrease the signal/noise enough to make finding and sorting through the information kind of useless to those not in the know. Maybe you have lots of invalid bank and credit card information lying around. Or put a whole bunch of passwords in your secret password vault, in case it gets compromised (good sites will eventually lock them out for trying them all, and failed attempts will also tip you off and give you time to respond).

    Next measure in the equation is to increase the cost of your perpetrator to circumvent security measures or commit crimes, far above what they'd gain by stealing your assets.

    Cheap deterrents first: live up a flight of stairs... thieves are inherently lazy and will go for the "low hanging fruit" instead of you. In the context of this article, put your laptop up high in a closet or stash it in a drawer... make them search through dirty laundry for it.

    The best society wouldn't need any security at all... if there was enough transparency and free flow of information, all thieves would get caught and reprimanded. So participate in the whole neighborhood watch thing, make sure your perp has to perform his act in very public settings, uniquely tag your stuff, and post warnings to remind them and make them nervous about getting arrested / shot / going to hell etc.

    Finally, we get to the part of the equation where you actually have to actively do something for extra security measures.

    First, make it a habit to perform the rudimentary simple steps of locking your door and always having your keys on you. Deadbolt is much better than the handle switch, and also helps insure that you remembered your keys. I involuntarily lock my house and car doors now, and always brush my pockets with my hands to check that my keys and wallet are still there. At this point, I usually notice within 5 minutes if something's missing.

    Passwords and encryption are just more sophisticated keys and locks. Not uncircumventable, but much better than nothing. But before spending lots of money on more complex 2- & 3-factor keys and locks ... especially those that can completely shoot you in the foot and result in losing all your data... most people invest in other measures ... alarms and security cameras that would increase the chances of the perp getting caught. I haven't seen a whole lot that focuses on this area yet... the phone home mechanisms and stuff like that, but I figure it would be much more productive to concentrate on these kinds of security measures in the near term.

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