Dropbox Remote WipeWith using the cloud services these days, I always have the issue of security on my mind. One of the recent concerns is regarding my data which resides on my laptop that is always in my bag.

Though not all your data will be residing in the cloud, or on Dropbox, this trick which I will provide today will help with saving some of your data from prying eyes, in case your precious laptop gets stolen.

Keep in mind, that the following is only used to, more or less,  to protect your Dropbox data. Other stuff which exists on the rest of your hard drive is subject to another article, which would be related to encryption and/or TrueCrypt.

Before I state the steps, I want to clarify, that this method is not completely fool-proof, as Dropbox does keep a cache of the data, but won’t be nearly as easily discoverable, but this is going on the assumption that 90% of people who steal a laptop are not going to be savvy enough to know where to look for these kinds of things.

This method would not even exist if Dropbox had a “remote wipe” feature, however, until they implement that, this is the workaround. For this to work, you will need the version of Dropbox which supports “Selective Sync” –> version 1.0 and higher.

What we will be doing here, is essentially simulating a remote wipe by creating a folder that can be controlled from your Dropbox’s web interface, while your computer is still linked to it. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. On your laptop, create a folder called “EVACUATE” in your Dropbox.
  2. Open up your Dropbox preferences, and go to Advanced, then click on Selective Sync…
  3. UNCHECK the folder “EVACUATE” and click OK.
You can do this process on every linked computer which you want to be able to “Remote Wipe”.
Now, if your laptop gets stolen, do not unlink it from your DropBox account immediately, as you would lose the ability to do anything with that data. Instead, login to the web interface on DropBox, then move all your data into the “EVACUATE” folder. What effectively happened is a simple data move, but because we have decided not to sync the EVACUATE  folder, the data would get deleted from the file system on that laptop.
One thing to remember about this, is as soon as the data gets moved to the “EVACUATE” folder, make sure to unlink the computer immediately, otherwise, the malicious user can easily open up the preferences in Dropbox, and re-select the EVACUATE folder to bring back all the data. Again, this would require them to be savvy, to know that Dropbox exists, to know that you have this folder setup, and to know that Selective Sync is configured. That’s a lot to know and act upon in a short period of time, and will likely give you enough time to evacuate your data off.
This method will not delete any of your data, it will simply remove it from the filesystem on your stolen laptop.
Again, this is not fool-proof, but it’s definitely a viable workaround until Dropbox implements a “Remote Wipe” feature.

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