In April 2015, a laptop was stolen from insurance provider Oregon Health Co-op containing data on 15,000 members. In May, a laptop was stolen from SterlingBackCheck, a New York-based background screening service, resulting in the data of 100,000 people nationwide being compromised. We don’t often hear about these hacks in the news as much as, say, the Target breach that affected 70 million records, but the truth is, it is much easier to steal a laptop than it is to hack into a corporate database.
Common ways laptops are stolen
It is important to be aware of the many situations you might be setting yourself up to have your device stolen.
1. Your car
Cars left in empty or busy parking lots are prey for thieves. While you may think your belongings are safe in your locked car, or hidden slightly under a seat, that is not always the case. Try to bring your computer indoors with you when you leave your car, and if you must leave your computer in your vehicle, park in a brightly lit area near other cars.
2. Free public WiFi areas
Think about it—where is the best place to find laptops and devices? In a public WiFi area! Most people would not think their devices are unsafe in a public area, but getting up to use the restroom or setting your computer bag behind your chair leaves an easy window of opportunity for thieves to grab your belongings. Consider bringing someone with you while you work at a coffee shop or library to avoid leaving your belongings alone for a period of time. If you regularly work remotely from coffee shops and you are alone, consider asking a neighboring table to watch your belongings while you run to the restroom or take a call outside.
3. Airport security
Airport security lines can get a little chaotic—rushing to take off your shoes, throw your bags into individual bins and walking through the X-ray machines. These are vulnerable opportunities where you might accidentally leave a bag behind or have someone grab your bag on accident. The TSA recommends always keep an eye on your belongings as you go through airport security.
4. At the office
While we would all like to assume that our belongings and computer are safe at the office, that may not always be the case. If you are in a large, open company, people that do not work for your company may come in and take belongings. Try to keep an eye on your computer or bring it with you when moving around the office. Many companies now provide desk locks to keep your computer safe at your seat when you are not there.
Has your company recently started a “bring your own device” policy within your office? Gartner anticipates that half of all companies will have some need for a BYOD policy by 2017, which means employees will be using their own devices, as well as company-issued ones, in the office or on the go. While these policies are often very useful for employees, they also open up new risks if devices are lost or stolen.
Don’t let a stolen computer or device be the cause of a data breach within your organization. We encourage you to take several precautions and steps now to protect your devices, increasing the chances of finding the device and preventing a potential breach of information.