The key to security

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I recently saw a program on TV where someone was using a USB key as a hardware lock for their computer. I just wondered whether this was actually possible, or whether it was just the usual TV computer nonsense? If it is possible, can you tell me how I can set up one of my own?

Yep, it’s a fairly simple process, and one that has the twin virtues of being quite reasonably secure as well as feeling futuristic at the same time. Like living inside an (admittedly mundane) espionage novel.

To create a hardware lock for your PC, you first need to find yourself an old thumbdrive, preferably one that’s too small to be of any further practical use. You don’t need masses of space, so if you’ve got an 8GB one hanging around, hang onto it and dig into your junk drawer for an old 64MB one instead.

Description: Description: Now you have yourself and USB flash drive to lock/unlock your PC

Now you have yourself and USB flash drive to lock/unlock your PC

Once you have the thumb drive ready you’ll need to download a program that can handle the software side of things. One good example is called ‘Predator’, which personal users can download for free from Montpellier Informatique ( – although note that commercial users will be asked to pay the (not unreasonable) cost of $40.

Once the software is downloaded, install and run it. Make sure the empty USB drive is connected to the PC, then select it from within the application and follow the setup instructions. From this point forward, as long as Predator is still running, you won’t be able to access the PC without the USB key attached. You can set Predator to launch with Windows, effectively creating an always-on hardware lock.

This can be an easy way to create a simple, fast, and difficult-to-circumvent lock for your machine. It’s a simple matter to plug in and unplug a USB key when you move to or from your machine. When the USB key is detached, the screen will go dark and the keyboard and mouse will stop working. When it is reattached, normal access is restored.

Description: Description: They key to security

You won’t be able to access the PC without the USB key attached.

The software has additional features too, such as email and SMS alerts, access logging and Twitter notifications to keep you aware of any attempted access. The security key is rotated on each use to prevent copies of the drive being made, and audible alarm sounds to accompany unauthorised access. It’s fair to say that it’s far more secure than the generic Windows protection.

Obviously, it won’t prevent the most determined hackers from getting at your data, but a wily or intrusive family member should be thwarted in ways that they wouldn’t be with a pure software solution. Restricting access to a single unique hardware access key means that stolen or intercepted passwords won’t be a problem either.

If you’re not keen on Predator, you can try one of these other USB Security Key programs – although note that Micro Mart has no affiliation with any of them, nor does it recommend any one specifically, but feel free to try them out anyway: USB Lock Pro: ID USB Lock Key:

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