This is no laundry list of regular old run-of-the-mill basic security applications, like anti-viral, anti-spyware, firewalls that you can find everywhere on the Internet. Here, we think outside the box a bit and offer a list of seven more interesting ones, including biometric logins, hidden OSs, encrypting flash drives, and locking down public workstationsand the best part? Theyre all free.
Login by looking at a Web cam with Blink
Do you want to improve security using biometrics, but dont want to pay for expensive fingerprint scanners? Well, if you have a Web cam lying around, you can use Blink! from Luxand. Users can log into their Windows account just by looking at their computer.
Using facial-recognition has many benefits. First off, it can improve security. Anyone can log in to an unauthorized account if they know the password, but its much harder if you must look exactly like the person. Biometric logins can also alleviate the burden of users having to remember long passwords and administrators from enforcing and supporting strict password standards. Plus, if someone tries to log in to another persons account youll get a snapshot of them.
Encrypt or create a hidden OS with TrueCrypt
Even if Windows is password protected, thieves can still access all your files, for example, with a Linux-based LiveCD. To protect your documents and privacy, you can encrypt your data. TrueCrypt is a great open source solution.
TrueCrypt can encrypt three ways: using a file container, non-system partition or drive, or a system partition or entire drive. Like other solutions, each can contain a hidden volume which provides deniability protection. One feature that sets TrueCrypt apart from other solutions is the ability to easily create an entire hidden operating system where sensitive work can securely be performed. Furthermore, it runs on Mac OS X and Linux, in addition to Windows.
For a full TrueCrypt tutorial, click here.
Easily encrypt your USB flash drive or PDA with FreeOTFE
Another open source encryption solution is FreeOTE (Free On-The-Fly-Encryption). Though it provides very similar encryption to other solutions like TrueCrypt, its more mobile-friendly. The portable mode provides encryption for your USB flash drive, while not requiring you to install any applications on the computer or for you to be on an administrators account. That way you can protect your files and access them from any PC. Additionally, FreeOTE supports Windows Mobile-based platforms.
Store your passwords with LastPass
Yes, password managers are usually on those annoying laundry lists of apps. However, this isnt a typical password manager. LastPass will really be the last one youll need to securely store and manage your Web credentials.
LastPass runs on all the popular OSs (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and Web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome). Then just for $1 a month, you can get support for your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, or WebOS phone.
In addition to remembering all your Website passwords, LastPass can help you automatically fill out forms and store notes. To really make sure its the last password manager youll use, they are working on adding support for desktop applications.
Keep an eye on the lab with VNC Thumbnail Viewer
If you run a computer lab or otherwise manage multiple computers on a network, or even over the Internet, you might want to check out VNC Thumbnail Viewer. It lets you see thumbnails of multiple remote desktop (VNC) sessions and offers quick full-screen access. This extends the functionality of the vncviewer client offered by the popular open source, TightVNC, remote desktop solution.
The VNC Thubmnail Viewer is available as an executable for Mac OS X and Windows, and as a Java (.jar) file. Remember, you still must install and run a TightVNC or UltraVNC server on each of the computers you want to monitor.
Lock down your public workstation with Windows SteadyState
If you have a public PC or lab, Windows SteadyState is a must-have application. Plus its totally free. Released by Microsoft, it helps protect Windows and the PC from unauthorized changes and use.
Windows SteadyState prevents users and guests from changing settings, installing key loggers, copying files, and much more. It can even be set to automatically revert back to a saved disk image at boot, so everything on the computer will always remain exactly the samelike a system-wide undo button.
Currently, Window SteadyState runs on computers loaded with a genuine copy of Windows XP or Windows Vista.
Secure your public Internet connections with UltraVPN
If you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot (or any unencrypted wireless network) or public Internet port, your Internet activity can easily be monitored. You might not care that youre revealing which Websites youre visiting. However, you probably dont want everyone being able to read your e-mail and possibly capturing your login credentials to unsecured services like POP3 e-mail, FTP file transfers, and some Web-based e-mail services.
To secure all your Internet activity from local hackers and eavesdroppers you can use a VPN solution to encrypt all your traffic. UltraVPN is one of many free applications and services that offer this type of VPN solution to protect public network connections. Unlike other providers though, they dont run adsthey accept donations. Plus UltraVPN doesnt cap or restriction usage.
Eric Geier is the Founder and CEO of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi with enterprise-level encryption by offering an outsourced RADIUS/802.1X authentication service. He is also the author of many networking and computing books for brands like For Dummies and Cisco Press.