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I was at HP’s Executive Forum this week. While they clearly had fun with the fact they are taking significant share from Apple, are growing faster then their Windows peers, and are now again number one in the market, what really caught my eye was their focus on security.
Over the years I’ve run several security units, audited and tested security, and was even in law enforcement for a time. My father even ran what was then a high-tech security firm when I was a child. This background has been a core part of my thinking over the years and I tend to take Security more seriously than most.
HP, due to the company split, lacks a backend to their security strategy, but this seems to have focused them far more aggressively on securing both their consumer and business PC lines more aggressively. In my opinion, they effectively lead the market in Printer security as well (which matters, given how many printers have been identified as security exposures).
Now HP’s PCs use layered security with methods that appear to be uniquely resistant to things like root kits, and very reminiscent of what BlackBerry did, and still does, with smartphones. But the part I want to focus on is the integrated privacy screen, which may be the most important security feature in their line.
Let’s talk about why privacy screens should be a requirement on every PC.
There is the common concern that I’m sure most of us share, that the person sitting next to you on a plane can pretty much see everything you are doing.
I’m convinced you could make a pretty good living just flying back and forth from Silicon Valley to New York and selling insider information based on what you could see on the PCs around you before the SEC tossed you into jail (I’m not suggesting this as a good career move).
But the issue now is that we have lots of hostile foreign government activity and that same information going to a foreign government could do you or your company a ton of avoidable damage.
But the bigger issue now is the massive proliferation of high resolution cameras and the spread of image recognition AI system. With PC screens open and people working on public places there is a massive growing pool screen images that either could be scanned now or scanned in the future as these AI systems come on line.
This means future bad actors will be able to look back at these images into your digital past and not only see what you were doing for your company but what you were viewing in your free time. Realize that passwords aren’t always automatically obscured and we often un-obscure them when they are complex to make sure we type the damn things in correctly.
In short, because we aren’t using privacy screens some of our company passwords may exist someplace right now just waiting for the right scraping and analytics program to fish them out. Granted, we may have replaced many if not most of them by that time. But the pictures will only become more prevalent and the information more current as increasingly high-resolution security cameras are installed and connected to web services.
Privacy screens significantly mask the ability for anyone or anything to see your screen and help assure that that next big breach doesn’t track back to you – turning your next big job into flipping burgers at McDonalds.
HP is unique in the PC space because, unlike their peers which tend to either be just focused on the consumer market or have far broader interests, HP is almost exclusively focused on PCs and Printers.
This has driven them down a path to provide layers of security across both lines that appear market leading. The feature that jumps out, because it literally is in my face, is the security screen. With the proliferation of high definition cameras this may not only be the least complex security feature but the most critical.
In the end, going forward, that privacy screen, I believe, will grow to become one of, if not the most, powerful security feature for notebooks and tablets.