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Palm Security Tips

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PDA Security Vulnerabilities

PDA's are packed with valuable, but sensitive information about our family, friends, business associates, credit card numbers, passwords, etc. Most of us are very careful about keeping our physical property and credit cards secure, but often times pay no attention to protecting the sensitive data on our PDA's.

Read PalmZone.net's article, PDA Users Risk Corporate Data, for more information and alarming statistics on just how unsecure our data really is.

PDA Security Tips

There are some very simple things you can do with just about any Palm-Powered device to deter casual snoops.

Assign A Password

The first thing you should do is assign a password to your device. This feature is available on all Palm OS PDA's and just takes a second to do.

Use the Palm Launcher to go in the Security application. Enter your password and a hint to remind you of what it is. Confirm your new password when prompted.

Now you can lock your handheld whenever you want by going into the Security application and choosing "Lock and Turn Off...".

If you want to make it easier to lock your device, go into the Prefs application, choose Buttons, and then hit the "Pen" button. Then select to assign "Turn off and lock" to the pen stroke.

To lock the device this way, just run your pen from the Grafitti area up to the top of the screen.

Enter Your Owner Information

This is important to do now that you will be locking your device from time to time. Go into the Prefs application and choose Owner from the drop-down list in the upper right corner. Hit the Unlock button and key in your name, address, and phone number.

This owner information is displayed with the device is powered on. This way, anyone who finds it will know how to get in touch with you.

Set Your Device to Lock Periodically

Entering a password above and manually locking your device is a start, but are you really going to know to lock it before you lose it? To help with this, set your device to lock down automatically on periodic basis.

From the same Security screen, select Auto Lock Handheld and choose either a preset time of day or preset number of elapsed hours or minutes before the device locks automatically. The duration is up to you, but an hour or two delay is probably a good balance for most people. You want a period of time long enough that you aren't constantly entering your password, but short enough that if you were to lose or misplace your PDA, odds are good that it would be locked down before anyone got any real snooping done.

Hiding or Masking Private Records

All of the built-in Palm applications (Datebook, Address Book, To-Do List, Memo Pad) and many third-party applications allow you to mark records as "private".

By default, these records will display just like any other non-private record. What you need to do is go into the Security application and under Current Privacy, select either Mask Records or Hide Records. This will hide or mask (shows the record as a gray bar) those records on your PDA and require you to enter your password to view them.

Use a Password Keeper Application

Probably the biggest security risk of all and the biggest thing that everyone wants to store in their PDA is their private passwords. With so many different passwords for work, the web, your car, your garage, and everything else, using a secure program to store these passwords is essential.

The following are some very good password storage programs for your device:

  • SplashID - This is a great program that has both a Palm and PC application. Import it all from another application or spreadsheet or do the data entry on the PC. Then make changes as needed on the Palm. Everything is kept in sync.
  • YAPS (Yet Another Password Safe) - This one is free and works quite well. Since it costs nothing, you now have no excuse to leave your passwords exposed.
  • There are many others as well. Search the PalmZone.net Software Store for keyword "Passwords".

Encrypt Your Data

While all of the above techniques are good for protecting the information on your PDA, they do nothing to protect the data stored on your expansion card. Anyone can take the expansion card out of your PDA and use another PDA or a PC card reader and access all of your sensitive data.

Even if you don't store any sensitive documents on your expansion card, if you ever perform a backup to the card, all of your PIM Data (Datebook, Address Book, To-Do List, Memo Pad items) will be there unsecured.

PDA's With Built-in Encryption

If you have a palmOne Palm OS 5 device, you can install a security update that adds encryption capability to your device. You can specify what data gets encrypted and when.

Third-Party Encryption Programs

This section is under construction. Here are some third-party encryption programs:

Protect Against Virusus/Trojan Horses

While there are no known virusus for Palm PDA's, there have been three different "Trojan Horse" applications. These are malicious applications that people wrote and disguised them as some cracked software. If you are careful about what you install and stay away from the warez sites, you will be fine.

Even so, Computer Associates offers AntiVirus Software for Palm OS that protects against the known trojan horses. It is currently free for "a limited time".

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Published on: 2006-07-04 (36206 reads)
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