This is a transcript of a podcast discussing Clean Devices, and how to
work with them.
Speaker Key: PB Phil Brown, DW David Whelan
PB: Hi, it’s Phil Brown, and I’m here
with David Whelan. Today we’re going to talk about clean devices.
DW: Clean devices often come up when
people think about crossing a border or going on a trip to visit a client in a
different location and having to go through security, or potentially putting
their client information that’s on their device at risk.
PB: And the whole idea is, at least with
border crossings and so on, you may be asked to reveal information on your
DW: Clean devices can also be used even
if you’re just going around town and you want to have a device where you’re
sure that you’re not carrying anything confidential; that if you lose your
device, laptop or phone, that you won’t then inadvertently expose the client-confidential
information that’s on it.
PB: In my 25 years or so, I’ve heard a
number of lawyers have had their cars broken into next to a courthouse. That’s probably
the worst place to leave your laptop or any other electronic devices.
DW: The way you clean your laptop isn’t
by dropping it in the sink and giving it a good lather. Think about how to
remove all of the information that’s on it so that if someone was to get a hold
of the device, there was only the hardware and basic software that was needed
in order to run the computer.
PB: It doesn’t mean you’re now walking around
with a brick; there are a number of ways to access information.
DW: One of the easiest is to buy a second
laptop or a second device, and then use that only when you’re going to be
travelling or in a place where you want to have a clean laptop. Don’t leave any
passwords or any other client information on there.
PB: So, rather than erasing information
from a computer, you’re just never putting any confidential information on it.
DW: It’s a lot easier to leave the
information off the device than to try and hunt it down, because information is
often stored in hidden folders, particularly on Windows computers, and can be difficult
for you to even know that you’ve saved something that you shouldn’t have.
PB: And when we’re talking about a clean
laptop, we’re talking about a laptop that doesn’t have any email going to it. There
are no resident programs left over, your calendar is not on it, there’s nothing
DW: Right. A second way to do that, if
you don’t want to spring for a second device or a second laptop, is to remove
the media that you’re using in the laptop, like the hard drive in the laptop,
or the SD card in your phone. If that is where you’ve stored the information
that you use for your practice, you can pull the hard drive out of your device
and then use an alternate media for booting up the computer, for having basic
programs on it, and then make sure that you don’t leave any data on that.
PB: And that could be either a hard drive
or a USB key or anything that was bootable. Now, again, if you were travelling
across the border, they would often ask you to boot up your computer for them.
DW: Right. They would at least want to
see that the computer was going to start up, and that it doesn’t have any other
ulterior purpose. If you had a flash drive, for example, that you could pop in
the side and use to turn it on and the computer started right up, then you’d be
in good shape. And you still wouldn’t have any of your data on the machine.
PB: Let’s talk about ways to work with that
clean laptop so there’s a point to taking it on your trip to begin with.
DW: If you’ve made it so clean that it’s of
no use, then it really does become a brick, and it might be good at wedging the
door open, but not much else.
PB: One way would be to work in the cloud.
DW: The cloud is an easy way to get into
information that you made available, either before you left your office or is
always out there. One of the most common things that lawyers use in the cloud
is their email. So if your email is always in the cloud, which means that you
use a web browser to get to your Google mail account, for example, or your
Office 365 account from Microsoft, then you’ll be able to operate your clean
device, use your web browser on that device, and still be able to get to your
email without making any changes in how you practise.
PB: As well, you could access a number of
files that you have in your office as long as they’ve been loaded into the
cloud and some sort of application.
DW: Right. You may use the cloud in your
practice anyway; you may be automatically synchronising your files to Dropbox.
But even if you don’t, you can use one of those cloud tools, Dropbox, Box, and
SkyDrive are examples. There are many different types you could use to just
load them up while you’re going to visit with a particular client or on a particular
trip. Then when you return to your office, you can remove them and leave your
PB: And one of the cautions when using the cloud
and using your device on the cloud, is to not download things onto your
computer while you’re using it.
DW: Right. The one thing you don’t want to do is
have a clean laptop when you leave and then download or acquire information, store
it on the device, and then have it on there when you’re crossing back over the
border. Or, if it’s stolen, losing that information. So if you do download files
from Dropbox, for example in order to print them, make sure that you delete
them after you’ve done that. Try not to download any email because that will be
very difficult to locate and delete later. You want to keep as little
information on that device as possible.
PB: A quick review: the cloud is essentially a
computer server that’s not anywhere within your business; it’s held somewhere
else by a third party.
DW: Right, and you want to make sure it’s
encrypted, but you really don’t have any other control over it.
PB: There are other options besides working in
the cloud. Let’s talk about some of those.
DW: The cloud makes some people uncomfortable, so
one of the ways you can get around that is using technology that allows you to
get back into your primary computer. And this, again, is similar to the
original – which is that you buy a second device. Working on your office
computer while you’re using a clean device requires two devices. So you would
leave your office computer alone; you would take your laptop or your smartphone
with you, and it would be clean. And then you would connect back to your office
using something that allows you to communicate with your computer but doesn’t
itself actually require you to leave information on any other computer outside
PB: One of the keys here would be to make sure
your computer was on before you left the country.
DW: That is critical. One of the ones I like is
called Tonido. Tonido actually calls itself a personal cloud, but it’s a bit of
a marketing term. What it allows you to do is to install the Tonido software on
your desktop computer or your computer back in your office, or even on a
server. And once you have set it up, then Tonido’s site, Tonido.com,
communicates with your Tonido server or your Tonido software, so that when
you’re out on the road with your clean device, whether it’s a smartphone or a
laptop, you can connect back through the Tonido server, using your user name
and your password, and get back into the files on your computer. You don’t
actually see everything that’s on there, but it’s a great way to access
individual documents that you need to download or get to without having loaded
them into the cloud.
PB: Right. You set up virtual files on your
computer; you’re not accessing the whole thing, but you’re accessing your private
stash of files that you’ve set up on your computer before you go. Some other more
traditional options might be things like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC – things like that.
DW: Those are virtual desktops. They are easier
to use on a laptop, although you can use them on a smartphone. It loads up a
version of your desktop, so you would actually feel as if you were working back
in your office, even though you were connected to it over the internet. The
only downside to that compared to something like Tonido is really the amount of
bandwidth – the speed – that it would take to load up that desktop so that you
can see it. The upside is that if you aren’t really sure where you saved
something, you have your entire operating system that you can work on as if you
were sitting in your practice.
PB: Right. It does tend to be a little bit
slower, but you have the advantage of being able to access everything that’s on
your desktop back in the office.
DW: All of these have free versions as well as
paid versions, so you can give it a try, get started with it, and then if you
want some of the additional features, you can pay for the premium plans.
PB: That’s our look at clean laptops. Thanks.