Since I wrote yesterday about security issues when using public wi-fi networks, a number of people have written with suggestions for a more secure computing environment. One of the better suggestions (in my opinion) came from Les Filteau who suggests using a software tool created by the US Department of Defense for use by military personnel. If it's good enough for the military for storing and sending information about military secrets, it should be good enough for you and me.
There are lots of software products around which claim to provide a safe computing environment by preventing malware and viruses from ever accessing your hard disk. The one used by the Department of Defense is called Lightweight Portable Security, or LPS for short. The advantage of LPS is that it is produced by, and heavily tested by, the US Department of Defense. The license explicitly states that it's also for use by the general public. You and I can legally download this tool and use it. Best of all is the price: free.
LPS is good for use in public wi-fi networks. It is also a great tool when you think you have a virus in your Windows system. Boot the computer with LPS and you then will operate in a virus-free environment while you troubleshoot the problem. You won't be bothered by new virus infections appearing as LPS is impervious to viruses.
In short, LPS is designed to be used in any situation where security is an issue.
LPS is available in the form of a CD image. You download the file as an .ISO image, burn it to disc using any software designed to convert .ISO files to bootable CDs or flash drives, insert the new CD or flash drive into your computer, and then reboot.
After a minute or so, you'll find yourself running a cut-down version of Linux. There's a familiar desktop, from which you can launch applications. Firefox is installed, and ready to use. LPS does not support file sharing, the subject of yesterday's article, so you will be safe from that threat. LPS also contains a number of other security features as well.
Two versions of LPS are available: LPS-Remote Access is only for accessing your organization's private network. I would suggest if you don't know what that is for, you don't want it. Most of the people reading this article will want the LPS-Public ISO image version.
The Public ISO image is also available in two versions: LPS-Public ISO image and LPS-Public Deluxe ISO image. If you select the Deluxe version, you will have even more programs installed, including OpenOffice. Again, it is fully installed and ready to run, so you have a word processor and spreadsheet at your disposal, as well as the rest of the OpenOffice suite. It also includes Adobe Reader software.
LPS does not work on Macintosh systems or with any handheld tablet computers. It does require a laptop or desktop PC designed for use with Windows, including older systems, as long as they have either a bootable CD-ROM drive or a bootable USB port for the flash drive. Almost all PCs support bootable CDs but bootable USB ports were not common until a few years ago. Most of today's PCs have both.
The CD version of Lightweight Portable Security is available from http://spi.dod.mil/lipose.htm although when I tried the site just now it seemed to be very slow. I waited and waited and eventually things did appear.
If you want to make a bootable LPS system on a USB flash drive, see http://spi.dod.mil/liposeUSB.htm for details.
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