Nov 12, 2007

Data Theft from Laptops

Usually, data that gets stolen includes sensitive information such as email or network passwords, social security numbers, credit card details, ATM pin codes, financial records, personal details such as medical history as well as intellectual property such as engineering drawings.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a unique form of data theft. In this, the thief steals personal information of an individual illegally such as his or her full name, maiden name, residential or official address, date of birth, social security number, email address and passwords, confidential phone numbers, details of family members,credit card numbers, bank account details and so on.

The culprit then uses this personal information to gain unauthorized access to the bank accounts or other confidential areas related to the victim. Such personal information may also be used for impersonation or it may be sold to some other interested party.

Corporate Data Theft

These days, employees do not steal pencils or stationary anymore. Computerized office technology makes it easier for workers to steal important digital information from their employers. Recent research into intellectual property theft found that almost 73 percent of workers surveyed had stolen key information from work at some point or another.

The most pilfered items include e-mail address books, customer information databases, business proposals and presentations. Many of the data thieves who were questioned admitted that they had used office e-mail or USB Flash drives to get the stolen information off company premises.

Data Theft from Stolen: Laptops

Laptops are made for traveling and computing at the same time, and are thus very valuable for their weight. They therefore make a tempting target for thieves. Losing a laptop is like losing your wallet full of valuable things. Maybe it is even worse since a wallet cannot hold gigabytes of confidential personal or business data.

Once your laptop gets stolen, all your financial data, emails, license numbers and personal documents reside at the fingertips of the stranger who stole your laptop. For business travelers, this is very bad news indeed. Loss of confidential data can have serious implications.

Protecting Your Laptop Data

Physical Security: Companies such as Targus and Kensington manufacture chain locks that physically secure your laptop by tying it to an immovable object, much like a bicycle lock. However these also share the same disadvantage that the latter do, namely, an experienced thief can circumvent them very easily.

Biometric Security: While passwords can be cracked or stolen, biometric identifiers are difficult to reproduce. It is the task of biometric systems to apply a mathematical algorithm to the identifier (the retina of your eye or fingerprint, for example) to determine if a user is authorized to use the computer or not. The failure of correct biometric identification will prevent the laptop from booting up and thus your data would remain protected.

Laptop Identification Procedures: If your laptop ever gets stolen, having registered the device with the manufacturer beforehand can give you a much better chance of eventually getting it back. If the device is subsequently brought in for repairs at a company service centre, a record will exist and steps will be taken to notify you and the police.

Personalizing the Laptop: Want an easy way to drastically increase your chances of getting your laptop back after it has been stolen? Personalize it! Put your name and other personal information (address, phone numbers) somewhere on the laptop for easy identification and tracing. It will help the cops a great deal.

Pizza Box: Using a plain carry case or backpack will dramatically reduce the risk of laptop theft. The basic idea behind the “Pizza Box” laptop case, if you haven't already guessed it, is to store your fancy notebook in a pizza box (after eating the pizza and cleaning out the box) when you are not around. This way, you can leave your notebook out on the coffee table or pretty much anywhere in the house and no one will be the wiser that your expensive notebook lies inside.

Preventing Access to Your Data after Theft Laptop

BIOS Password Protection: BIOS password protection is a good option for users who are concerned about the possibility of data theft. A BIOS password makes it impossible to boot into any operating system until it is answered. It's not foolproof, as many manufacturers have built 'backdoor' keystroke combinations into their systems which can bypass even BIOS passwords, but it will do to stump most data thieves.

Set User Passwords: The higher the combination of numbers, uppercase letters, symbols and digits built into your password, the harder it is for anyone else to discover or crack.

Create Backups: If you are using your laptop for business work, everything important should be backed up before you leave home. Likewise, when creating documents while traveling, burn them to a CD as soon as possible and carry the disk in separate luggage.

If you follow even some of the above suggestions, your laptop will be much more likely to stay with you for at least the duration of its warranty. Back up your data, use the security measures provided and if your notebook ever gets lost or stolen, happily your important information will still be safe at hand.

[EDIT By El DI Pablo]: If you are still concerned with the safety of your data, you can also check out my article on full hard drive encryption here: (Full Hard Drive Encryption)

By: James Walsh

Article Source:

About the Author:
James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you are concerned about data loss and would like more information on Data Recovery see

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