January 6, 2014
DON’T WANT YOUR LAPTOP TAMPERED WITH? Use Glitter Nail Polish.
Short of keeping a machine with you 24/7, there is little you can do to be absolutely sure these things don’t happen, the researchers said. If there is a serious question, they advise against traveling with sensitive data and wiping or simply discarding potentially compromised devices upon returning home. But those extreme measures don’t help you while you’re actually on the road, making it critical to know if your machine has been compromised.
Some travelers affix tamper-proof seals over ports or chassis screws. But these seals can in fact be replicated or opened cleanly in minutes by anyone with even minimal training, Michaud and Lackey said. They instead advise borrowing a technique from astronomers called blink comparison. Here’s where the glitter comes in.
The idea is to create a seal that is impossible to copy. Glitter nail polish, once applied, has what effectively is a random pattern. Once painted over screws or onto stickers placed over ports, it is difficult to replicate once broken. However, reapplication of a similar-looking blob (or paint stripe, or crappy sticker) might be enough to fool the human eye. To be sure, the experts recommend taking a picture of the laptop with the seals applied before leaving it alone, taking another photo upon returning and using a software program to shift rapidly between the two images to compare them. Even very small differences – a screw that is in a very slightly different position, or glitter nail polish that has a very slightly different pattern of sparkle – will be evident. Astronomers use this technique to detect small changes in the night sky.
Me, I have a hidden partition full of heavily encrypted cat gifs, just to waste their time.