Five effective ways to burglar-proof your laptop

Five easy - yet effective - strategies to protect your laptop and the valuable data stored in it

Theft of laptops and other mobile devices is spiraling, and the consequences -- financial and other -- are getting increasingly dire.

These two disconcerting realities are attested to by survey findings from a range of different organizations:

  • More than 81 per cent of companies reported the loss of one or more laptops containing sensitive information between 2005 and 2006 -- Ponemon Institute

  • Financial losses from laptop theft exceed US$6.7 million. Around 97 per cent of stolen computers are never recovered -- FBI Computer Crime & Security Survey

  • A data breach involving personal customer information can cost a company US$268,000 in reporting expenses, a recent survey by McAfee and Datamonitor indicates.

Despite the irreparable harm such losses/theft -- and potential data breaches that result from them -- can cause to a company's reputation and bottomline, research indicates North American businesses aren't doing enough to protect themselves.

Around 73 per cent of companies surveyed by analyst firm Gartner didn't have a specific security policy for their laptops.

And it's not so much the cost of securing mobile devices -- and the data on them -- that is the issue, according to one Canadian analyst.

There isn't any shortage of easy to use, inexpensive laptop security tools in the market today, says James Quin, senior research analyst at consultancy firm Info-Tech Research Group.

Commercial encryption software can be purchased for as low as US$50 to $80, he notes.

The real issue, the analyst says has to do with a lack of employee awareness and education.

To remedy this we've put together five tips on information workers can use immediately to protect their laptops and data from loss and theft.

Some of these may seem self-evident, but it's amazing how little they are practiced.

1. Dock it or lock it up

Nearly 40 per cent of laptop theft occurs in the office. It can be prevented by using a docking station permanently attached to your desk with a feature that locks the laptop in place.

More than 80 per cent of laptops in the market today are equipped with a universal security slot.

This allows users to attach a cable lock or laptop alarm to the machine. These devices might not foil bolt cutters but they can deter most casual thieves. Locks and alarms usually retail for US$30 to $50.

While your laptop may be tethered, thieves can still get away with the PCMCIA NIC card or modem that is sticking on the side of your machine. Consider ejecting these cards and keeping them in a safe place when not in use.

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