Laptop Data Security

Category: Laptops

One in ten corporate laptops will be lost or stolen during their three-year lifetimes, according to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute in 2010. Here are the steps you should take to make sure your laptop, and the sensitive data you carry, is safe from loss or theft...

Securing Your Laptop Data

The Ponemon survey of 329 companies found that 86,000 laptops had gone missing. The average cost of such losses - estimated at $49,000 per laptop - took into account sensitive data that disappeared with the laptops.

Maybe the financial cost of losing your laptop would not be that high, but the pain would probably be very sharp. Financial data, contacts, emails, irreplaceable photos and videos, and many other kinds of personal data add up to a huge loss if a laptop is lost or stolen. You might even lose your job, if you were found to be negligent.

So how can you prevent laptop data loss, recover a lost laptop, or at least keep a thief from rifling through your personal data? Laptop data security starts with the machine itself. It's unwise leave your laptop unattended, even if you're just going to refill your coffee mug. But if you must, add an alarm system to your laptop.
Stolen Laptop

One option is a wireless proximity alarm. Attach an RFID chip to your laptop and set the separate sensor device to short or longer distance. Put the sensor in your pocket. If the chipped laptop moves beyond the range you set, a loud alarm goes off in the sensor. This type of alarm is also good for the absent-minded who might leave a laptop in a taxi or airplane seat. But ideally, you want to deter thieves from even touching your laptop.

A very obvious cable lock says to thieves, "Don't even try." Laptop cable locks are secured in a "K-slot" found on many modern laptops, usually near the right-hand screen hinge. Just loop the cable around a table leg and lock it up. Keyed and combination locks are available for around $30.

Password Security and Encryption

A strong logon password can prevent unauthorized access to a lost or stolen laptop. See my article Is Your Password Hacker Proof? for tips on choosing a secure password. But what if a data thief does get past this first line of defense? Even better is full-disk encryption. Microsoft includes the BitLocker encryption utility with Windows Ultimate and Enterprise, and it is pretty strong. But if you don't have one of those pricey business editions of Windows, there are plenty of free and low-cost full-disk encryption programs.

TrueCrypt is a powerful yet speedy on-the-fly encryption program used by many IT pros. This open source program is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. ZoneAlarm DataLock costs $40 a year, but it comes with technical support including help if you forget the password that unlocks your encrypted drives. You can also make a recovery disk in case your encrypted drive becomes corrupted.

Erasing your laptop's data remotely is a last resort, and many modern laptops have this "self-destruct" capability built into them. Computrace by Absolute Software is a suite of laptop security services that can help you track, monitor, and if necessary remotely wipe a lost or stolen laptop. The Computrace services costs $34.99 per year.

Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are also frequently lost or stolen. See my related article Track a Stolen Laptop for more tips on how to track and recover your laptop, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Blackberry or Android device, in the event that it's lost or stolen.

Do you have something to add to this discussion? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Laptop Data Security"

Posted by:

23 Jun 2011

1 tip I have been given is to have absolutely nothing apart from the OS and an Internet browser installed; and then use a service such as, typing in the URL every time. If the laptop is lost, stolen or seized by TSA all you loose is the laptop. As long as you have Internet access you can access home or office systems. There is a charge but it's a small price to pay

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