UK Customs & Excise Scanning Laptops

The BBC has reported an interesting story.  It appears that the UK’s Customs & Excise department is scanning the laptops of suspected offendors for illicit materials, namely offensive pornography.  Wanting to prevent the import of offensive materials is an appladable desire.  However, given that certain nations, including some in the EU, have a history of using government agencies to perform industrial espionage to aid their native companies, I do have a problem with this action.

Interestingly, the person who reported this story said their laptop could not be scanned by the agents on hand because it was an Apple.  The agents had no idea what encryption was either.

So, if you do not want company secrets to be stolen by a governement agency of some nation, make sure you encrypt your laptops hard disk.

Microsoft Catches Up With RIM Blackberry

The Register has published a whitepaper that describes how Microsoft has caught up with RIM in the marketing of push email technology.  Until Service Pack 2 for Exchange 2003, no one was able to match up with RIM.  Sure, there were alternatives but RIM had the name: Balckberry.  Every director and senior manager wanted a Blackberry.  This all sounds great but hold one a second… there’s some problems:

  • You have to pay money to subscribe to the RIM network for pushing your mails out.
  • If you use RIM then your mails are travelling across their network and their servers.

That last one is a real stickler.  You may have been able to offer alternative solutions but they still had license costs and you still had to beat the name "Blackberry".  Plus, let’s face it, non-Blackberry devices were a dog to use until recently.  You were probably talking about having to use a brick of a PDA and who really wants to revisit the 1980’s … I prefer to forget that decade happened.

With Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Exchange 2003, Microsoft included a new feature for pushing email out to Windows enabled smartphonnes and PDA’s.  Secure push email from within Exchange was now possible.  You didn’t need to use another companies service or network.  You also could reduce your licensing costs.  Simultaneously, phone manufacturers worked with Microsoft to develop better devices that would be more appealing to the target market.  Now a director can use a feature rich smart phone that is no bigger than a normal mobile/cell/handy phone.

MS Push Email offers other features too.  A PIN policy can be enforced on the devices.  This offers basic security to lenghten the time it takes to access data on a device without the owners permission (real security requires encryption).  Furthermore, if a device is lost or stolen it can eb reported to IT or the security officer.  With this notification, Exchange administrators can send a signal to the device to wipe itself, thus preventing unauthorised access of data.

The message was very slow to get out to the typical sys admin or CIO.  It appears that it’s finally getting out there but the uptake does appear to be slow in Ireland.  That’s a pity because it would be a shame not to use the free and secure solution that Microsoft have provided.

There’s loads of information on the net on how MS push email works and how to deploy it.  Here are some links:

Finally, Nathan Winters (in the UK) has set up the Microsoft Messaging & Mobility User Group UK.  The intention of this group is to share information and to inform people on how to make the best use of the technologies that Microsoft has provided in making the information worker a mobile worker.