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Security to go: Three tips to keep your mobile data safe

Ian Paul | Oct. 16, 2013
Data security is never easy, and security with mobile devices is no exception. Here are a few steps to meaningfully improve your mobile security

(We've also published full instructions on how to create a Ubuntu boot disk or USB boot drive in our Ubuntu guide for displaced Windows users.)

By turning your SD card into a secret Ubuntu boot card, you can leave the country with a "clean" installation of Ubuntu, with no user data on it at all, and your boot drive looks like an innocuous DSLR memory card. Use Ubuntu overseas, connect to your secure cloud accounts for important documents, and simply wipe the SD card of any files before you head home.

Even if you don't have any sensitive data to protect, this is such a great, secret-agent style use for your laptop that you might want to try it simply for the cool factor. But you have to ensure that your laptop's BIOS cooperates.

The easiest way to install an OS onto an SD card is to create a Live CD of Ubuntu Linux, or some variant, such as Mint. Ubuntu is the best choice, because this Linux distribution gives you step-by-step instructions on how to create a live CD. From there, installing Linux is no different from installing Windows: Just pick the drive on which to install Ubuntu (that 32GB or 64GB SD card), then follow the on-screen instructions.

Make sure your laptop's BIOS can boot from the SD card reader. We already have a tutorial on how to enter your BIOS settings, so in the BIOS utility, look for a category that says "boot order," "boot priority," or something similar. Then make sure your card reader is first in line.

Note that even if your BIOS lets you put the SD reader in your boot order, your peripheral may not be capable of booting the PC. Check with your device manufacturer to confirm this capability.

Even if you can't boot from the SD card reader, you can still install Ubuntu onto an SD card and just use an inexpensive SD card-to-USB adapter, many of which look just like USB drives with a slot for the SD card.

Once you're up and running, do a few test runs at home with your hard drive removed. The last thing you want to deal with after a red-eye flight to London is a snazzy, secret-agent setup that doesn't work. But if the test runs go without a hitch, you should be all set.


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