If you use your smartphone or tablet for work, you need to keep your data secure when you're on the go. We look at nine gadgets that try to keep your important data out of the hands of others.
Keep your mobile devices safe
Nowadays, when it seems like every week brings news of a new security breach, it seems appropriate to modernize an old saw by saying: You can never be too rich, too thin -- or too secure.
Most of these security breaches relate to stolen or illegally accessed databases, of course. But let's not overlook a more local problem: The security of your mobile devices and data. Your smartphone, your tablet and even your wallet all contain oodles of critical information -- business and personal alike -- that could be hacked, scanned, stolen or otherwise compromised.
Gadgets to the rescue! A growing number of security helpers aim to lock down your mobile devices, protect your credit cards, even hide your tablet display from the nosy guy in the airplane seat next to yours. What follows are some of the products that leverage the latest encryption and protection technologies to keep the bad guys at bay.
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3.0
Left your tablet in the cab? With enough time and the right skills, someone could access that data, even if it's password-protected. You could try keep all your data on Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or a similar cloud storage service, but many companies don't feel that public clouds are secure enough to store crucial data. That's why some users (and companies) turn to USB drives.
But what happens if the drive itself gets lost or stolen? Nothing, if it's an Aegis Secure Key 3.0. This military-grade USB drive incorporates a 10-digit alphanumeric keypad and FIPS 140-2 Level 3 cryptography -- meaning that, unless the user enters the correct code, ain't nobody getting that data.
The code can be 7 to 16 digits long, and because the Aegis Secure Key gets unlocked before you even insert it, there's no risk from hardware- or software-based keyloggers. Once inserted, it requires no drivers or special software, and it can be programmed to lock upon removal or after set period of inactivity.
A password manager is all well and good, but if a bad guy somehow gets his hand on the master password, the floodgates are open. Sonavation's IDKey is a hardware-based password manager that relies on a biometric fingerprint scanner. Call it a plug-and-swipe solution: To access your online accounts (such as Amazon and Google), you plug the IDKey into your Windows-based tablet or laptop (or you can pair it wirelessly with an Android or iOS device) and then swipe your finger.
The idea's not new -- a number of laptops and phones come with fingerprint scanners built in -- but IDKey promises virtually spoof-proof protection. According to the company, its ultrasound-based scanner captures three-dimensional images of a finger's ridges and whorls -- even factoring in the size and location of your pores.
The USB dongle comes in two flavors: the $249 X-Series and $279 M-Series. Both are water-resistant and rechargeable, and both can pair with smartphones and tablets thanks to Bluetooth, NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity options. The M-Series adds 16GB of encrypted on-device storage and an OLED display.
Yubico YubiKey Neo and Neo-n
When it comes to security, it's hard to beat two-factor authentication. More and more applications and enterprises are turning to hardware/software strategies to do just that, including the FIDO Alliance's Universal 2nd Factor (U2F). To the end user, however, that may mean a lot of tedious plugging and unplugging of smartcard-style U2F keys.
The YubiKey Neo (top) is a USB authentication key that offers a solution: It has a simple button that allows for one-tap token generation. And if you want security for, say, an Android phone or similar device, the Neo offers wireless connectivity via NFC. Its uber-cute sibling, the Neo-n (bottom), actually disappears inside a USB port, so you can leave it in full-time -- the "button" is simply a touch-sensitive edge you graze with your finger. (But the Neo-n doesn't support NFC.) These two keys can be deployed across a variety of applications, everything from Google account logins to password management to remote access and VPN. The YubiKey Neo sells for $50; the Neo-n, for $60.
Silent Pocket RFID blockers
The average shirt or pants pocket does a poor job of blocking radio signals. Okay, let's be clear -- it does no job of blocking them. According to some security experts, that could be problematic -- if you carry credit cards that have embedded RFID chips, for example, it's possible that someone with a scanner could slurp up your card numbers without you ever knowing it. And let's not forget the myriad wireless technologies built into your phone: Bluetooth, cellular, GPS, Wi-Fi and/or NFC. If you're serious about protecting both your data and your privacy, you might want to block some or all these signals.
That's the idea behind Silent Pocket's line of RFID-blocking products like The Suit, which looks like a fairly typical smartphone sleeve but, according to the vendor, includes shielding material that will block all the aforementioned kinds of signals. Call it a tinfoil hat for your smartphone.
The Suit (pictured here) starts at $30 for the canvas version and $70 for the leather version. Silent Pocket also offers a variety of secure wallets that start at $20.
Plug-up U2F Security Key
If you've got to supply U2F security keys to your entire staff, costs can start to mount up. That is, unless you consider Plug-up's FIDO U2F Security Key, which is priced about $8. No, there's no catch -- that's the real cost for this driverless USB smartcard, which provides ultra-secure protection for Google accounts and other Web services that support the FIDO U2F standard.
The Plug-up card is made largely of lightweight plastic (according to the company, the "active" metallic part is about 0.03 in. thick), which you snap out of its holder and then assemble. Although it's designed expressly for use with Google Chrome (meaning it works with Chromebooks as well as Windows tablets and laptops), its open-source foundation allows developers to leverage it for other browsers -- important if your company still uses, say, Internet Explorer.
Because the Plug-up lacks a physical button, you must unplug it and then reinsert it every time you sign into an account. If that sounds like too much hassle, it might be worth spending a little extra on something like the YubiKey Neo.
Vysk EP1 Privacy Charging Case and QS1 Quantum Security Case
Many IT managers lose sleep at night thinking about company employees walking around with unprotected phones. There's not only the risk of data compromise, but there's also the problem of gravity (broken phones cost a small fortune to replace).
The Vysk EP1 Privacy Charging Case and QS1 Quantum Security Case are iPhone cases that aim to minimize both risks. In addition to everyday hard-shell protection (and, with the EP1, a 2,200mAh extended battery), these cases include a variety of privacy features. For example, both offer a sliding shutter that blocks both camera lenses when not in use, the idea being to prevent hackers from seeing anything they shouldn't.
Meanwhile, Vysk's privacy apps encrypt your photos, videos and text messages. The QS1 adds encrypted voice communication to the mix, locking out the iPhone's microphones in favor of the case's own, which in turns routes calls through Vysk's Voice app.
Both cases come in a variety of colors. The EP1 is available for both iPhone 5/5s and iPhone 6, with a price tag of $120. The QS1, currently for iPhone 5/5s only, is currently in pre-order for $230 and is expected to be in wide-scale release in June 2015.
NXT-ID Wocket smart wallet
Careful online shoppers often use temporary, disposable credit-card numbers to protect themselves from identity theft and other dangers. The Wocket brings a similar concept to your pocket, replacing all your existing credit cards with a single card (called the WocketCard) that resets every time you use it. The idea: To provide the most secure wallet you can carry.
The Wocket is a pocket-size (3.5 x 2.75 x 0.4 in.) electronic vault that stores all the numbers and other info from your bankcards, as well as from loyalty and membership cards. Whenever you need to actually hand a physical card to, say, a clerk or waiter, you just slip the WocketCard into the Wocket. It only takes a few taps for you to code the card to whatever (Amex, Costco, etc.) you need it to be. And the Wocket wallet itself is biometrically coded to your voice, so there's no risk of compromise if it gets lost or stolen.
Due to ship this spring, but available now via invitation only, the Wocket will sell for $149.
What's the next evolutionary step in device security? Biometrics, sure, but does that mean fingerprints? Not necessarily. Turns out you have other unique physical characteristics beyond the ridges and whorls of your fingertips. Your heartbeat, for example.
See, your ticker generates an electrocardiographic (ECG) signal that can be used to prove you're you, though until now (except for your doctor's equipment) there's never been any kind of conduit between that "heart ID" and the rest of the world. The Nymi Band wants to be that conduit: It looks like a fitness band but will rely on your ECG to take the place of a password -- or, for that matter, a fingerprint.
That's the promise, anyway. For now, the Nymi Band Discovery Kit is shipping to developers for $149; they can also download the SDK and sample applications. No word yet on when it will be available to consumers.
3M Privacy Filters
With so much focus on things like encryption and passwords, it's easy to overlook one of the more basic forms of security: local privacy. When you're sitting on airplane, for example, or riding a crowded commuter train, what's to stop the person next to you from glancing at your screen and seeing proprietary information or conversations?
Very little, especially in these days of high-resolution, wide-viewing-angle IPS screens. Thankfully, there's a simple way to stop these busybodies: apply a privacy-minded screen protector. 3M's line of Privacy Filters, available for smartphones, tablets and laptops, give you a clear view of your screen when you're looking head-on. But anyone looking in from the side will see only black or gold.
The company also offers a few product-specific variations. The 3M Easy-On Privacy Filter, for example, is designed to be easily applied and removed, because there may be times (like during a video or presentation) when you want your screen to be visible to others. And the 3M 4-Way Privacy Screen Protector, currently for iPhone only, blocks the view in both portrait and landscape orientations.
3M's filters are available for a wide variety of devices at prices from about $17 and up.