LAPTOP, NOTEBOOK ... TARGET!

22. August 2006, 20:26 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

A recent spate of laptop thefts have returned to the spotlight a problem that has existed for as long as there have been laptop computers - theft of same. You would think that after approximately 20 years of use that individuals and business would have learned and this would not be such a serious issue. Sadly that is seldom the case.

Theft of laptops has been around as long as there have been machines to steal. They have been taken from homes, offices, backseats of cars, aeroplane terminals, bus luggage, train compartments, stores - the list is a vertitable inventory of places people use or store their machines. Yet after all this time hundreds if not thousands such machines turn up lost or stolen annually, many of them with sensitive personal, business or government information on them. Such events have recently involved U.S. Veteran’s Affairs, the United States Navy and Fidelty Investments.

Perhaps the saddest part is that most or all of these events are preventable by establishing firm policies and adhereing to them. Unfortunately, most policies are, when developed at all, given lip service or bypassed for the sake of convenience with the inevitable consequences.

What follows is a list which, if followed, should minimize or eliminate the risk of losing a valuable piece of equiment, and more importantly the data it contains.

  1. Make use of obvious physical deterrents such as cable locks.
  2. When transporting laptops, do it in an inconspicuous manner by using simple, non-descript cases or carrying them in a conventional briefcase.
  3. Where possible do work remotely via a VPN to avoid storing sensitive data on the laptop.
  4. Avoid leaving laptops unattended, even at home or in your office
  5. Make use of encryption. At the very least important files and access codes should be encrypted and preferably the entire hard drive.
  6. Use all password access controls available and use strong passwords.
  7. Utilize asset tracking and recovery systems, including remote wipe, and ensure that anti-virus and anti-spyware software is installed and kept up to date.
  8. Where possible, and if the data is particularly sensitive, access should use a two or three factor authentication system, and where possible DRM.
  9. Backup laptop data frequently to a secure location

While the above, if followed, can mitigate most threats, what is needed above all is education into the risks associated with unsecured laptops. Users need to become more conscious of the dangers and corporations need to learn to enforce policies and respond responsibly when a theft does occur.

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Keywords: laptop,notebook,theft,compromise,security,policy

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