January 25, 2007

By Ron Woerner

With the onset of the information age, laptop computers have become an invaluable resource to individuals and companies everywhere. About half of all computers sold today are laptops. That is also true at my company where half of the work force has a laptop computer.

The nature of portable laptops allows users to be productive while allowing for mobility. However, laptop theft has been on the rise. According to the FBI, losses due to laptop theft totaled more than $6.7 million in 2005. The Computer Science Institute/FBI Computer Crime & Security Survey found the average theft of a single laptop costs a company $89,000 on average. For the last seven years, laptop theft has been found to cause the second highest amount of financial loss, second only to damage caused by viruses (2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey).
Special measures should be taken to secure laptop computers:

  • Don’t leave them out and unattended. Secure laptops in a locked room, file-cabinet, safe or other container whenever they are left unattended for a long period of time (i.e., overnight, weekends, etc.).
  • Care should be taken so that they are not inadvertently left in taxi cabs, buses or rental cars, or in hotel lobbies or rooms. Many city hotels are notorious for having laptops stolen.
  • Avoid leaving laptops in plain view when traveling in personal vehicles. When possible, put them in a locked trunk and make sure the door is locked.
  • When flying, laptops should be treated as carry-on luggage and not checked. It is important that they remain in your control at all times.
  • Store a minimal amount of data on your laptop. The less that is there, the less there is to lose. Portable storage devices like USB “thumb” drives and network drives can be used to backup and store information off of the laptop. Be sure to secure the storage devices, too.

The idea is to protect laptop computers and similar high-value, portable items by storing them where they can’t be seen. As they say, “out of site, out of mind.”

By working together and helping each other, we all become stronger.

Editor’s Note: When locking your laptop in your trunk, try to not let people see you do it. For example, if you’re leaving work and heading to the gym, lock it in your trunk before you leave the office. Not only are laptop thefts on the rise, but rings that target laptop theft are on the rise. In fact, depending on where you work, you could be easily targeted by someone wishing to gain access to your information.

Also – Ron’s number about the average cost of laptop theft is accurate, if not low. When your laptop is stolen, people don’t care (much) about the hardware – but now are interested in the information you have.

We’ll be covering this in much more detail when we launch the Hard Drive Encryption series (after the Family Security Series) and when we release our book examining breaches this Spring. Ron, thanks for a great article.

– Michael

About the Author Guest Blogger

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