Computer World has an article claiming that “small laptops pose a big security threat.” The gist of the article is this: Since netbooks are less powerful than your typical notebook or desktop, they often run older software like Windows XP or a simplified version of Linux that might not have all the security benefits of newer software. What’s more, because many netbooks have limited processing power, users may not want to run data encryption, anti-virus software, or other anti-malware apps that can be resource hogs. Therefore, if you use a netbook for enterprise work, there’s a chance you’re taking unecessary risks.

And that’s all true to an extent. But here’s the thing: That can be true of any computer that doesn’t have the lastest software updates, or any cellphone or PDA that can connect to your corporate network.

There are a few easy ways around this “problem.” First, you could decide not to purchase netbooks for enterprise use in the first place and just treat them as consumer oriented laptops. But there are advantages to using netbooks for business purposes. They’re portable, which lets your employees work from home or the road more easily. And they’re cheap. Like, you could buy 2-4 netbooks for the price of one laptop cheap.

All you really need to do is treat netbooks the way you would more expensive laptops if you want them to be secure. If they ship with Xandros or Linpus Linux Lite and you’re not convinced it’s secure enough, load the latest version of Ubuntu, Fedora, or Mandriva. Don’t think the Windows machines have enough processing power to run your applications? Upgrade the RAM. It’s easy to do on virtually every available netbook. And if you want to get really ambitious, you may be able to replace Windows XP with Windows Vista which offers a number of security enhancements. Sure, it’ll boot slower and take up more disk space, but Windows Vista runs surprisingly well on some low powered netbooks.

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7 replies on “Do netbooks make your data more vulnerable?”

  1. I read the Computer World article yesterday, and I am glad that someone has come out to defend netbooks. I myself have been a I.T. professional for 14 plus years and I really think that netbooks are great. Netbooks can be upgraded with just about any OS(I have upgraded to XPPro) and are really all the average user needs for daily computing. I cant wait to hear all the critics at the end of the year jump on the netbook band wagon after it out sales all other mainstream computers. By the way I have a Acer Aspire One 160 GB HDD, 1.5gb RAM, Windows XP Pro, and entire MS Office Suite and it runs GREAT.

  2. While not exactly a fan of Vista, it can be made to boot up pretty quickly if one were to disable unnecessary services. Also axing the sidebar and aero effects provide a boost in performance. This is all ‘old hat’, but I figured I’d mention it. ..Willy.

  3. To be honest I run my virus protection just fine on my Netbook and I don’t really see any noticeable degradarion of speed or efficency. A Netbook can be just as secure as anything else. I don’t think ist teh machines as much as the people. A person who buys afull notebook will likley have just as many issues as a if they bought a netbooks becaus ethey are they type of “shmo” from the start.

  4. For the Windows version note that you also get XP home, which is not designed to integrate with a business network securely, and any ad-hoc solution will likely be full of holes, unless you know exactly what you are doing. You cannot legally upgrade to XPpro, only to a business version of Vista, if it is not too heavy for your netbook.

    1. Sure you can legally upgrade to XP Pro. You just can’t “purchase” a
      copy of XP Pro anymore. But if you already have a legally acquired
      copy lying around there’s nothing preventing you from installing it on
      a netbook.

  5. Netbooks are no more or less secure than any other computing device. Security starts with how they are used / corporate policies. I refuse to put sensitive information on any portable computing device. As I travel from site to site for work purposes I plug into our corporate network where all my files reside. My laptops/netbooks never have anything personal on them. That information is secured in my desktop.

  6. Get a copy of TrueCrypt and encrypt the entire drive. The program is surprisingly resource friendly and with whole-drive encryption you don’t even notice the overhead.

    Netbooks are more expendable than more traditional notebooks, so if you have whole-drive encryption (or an encrypted container with your sensitive files) and lose your netbook, it’s no problem. That’s a bit of peace of mind for you.

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