While laptop computers can increase workforce productivity, they also increase the risk of harmful and costly data security breaches. Since a lost or stolen laptop can jeopardize sensitive information, the Federal Trade Commission recommends the following preventative measures to protect laptop computers and the personally identifying information it contains.

Treat laptops like cash. People don’t leave their cash unattended, not even for a minute. When traveling, cash isn’t usually checked with luggage and it isn’t left in the backseat of the car. Keep the same watchful eye on the laptop as you would on cash.

Lock laptops with a security cable. Whether in the office, a hotel or some other public place, a laptop security cable should always be used. Attach it to something immovable or to a heavy piece of furniture, such as a table or a desk. Security cables work similarly to bike locks. You can purchase them at Office Depot, Amazon, Staples, etc.

Be on guard in airports and hotels. The confusion and shuffle of security checkpoints can be fertile ground for theft. Keep an eye on the laptop when going through airport security. Hold onto it until the person in front of you has gone through the metal detector, and wait for it to emerge on the other side. When staying in a hotel overnight, a security cable may not be enough. Store the laptop in the room safe. If leaving a laptop attached to a security cable in a hotel room, consider hanging the “do not disturb” sign on the door.

Consider an alarm. Depending on security needs, a laptop alarm can be an excellent security device. Some laptop alarms sound when there’s unexpected motion, or when the computer moves outside a specified range. A program that reports the location of stolen laptops upon being connected to the internet can also provide additional security.

Consider carrying laptops in something more discreet than a laptop case. When taking a laptop on the road, carrying it in a computer case may advertise what’s inside. Consider using a suitcase, a padded briefcase, or a backpack instead.

Don’t leave laptops unattended. Though colleagues may seem trustworthy, avoid the temptation to leave laptops unattended, even for a minute. Laptops should be taken whenever possible. If taking the laptop is not an option, use a cable to secure it to a table or desk.

Don’t leave a laptop in a car. Parked cars are a favorite target of laptop thieves. If leaving a laptop in a car is the only option, keep it locked up and out of sight.

Don’t put laptops on the floor. Whether at a conference, coffee shop, or registration desk, laptops should not be left on the floor. If it is necessary to put the laptop down, place it between your feet or up against your leg so you remember that it’s there.

Don’t keep passwords with the laptop or in its case. Remembering strong passwords or access numbers can be a challenge. However, leaving them in the laptop carrying case or on the laptop is like leaving keys in a car. In the event a laptop is lost or stolen, don’t make it easy for a thief to access sensitive information stored on the device.

Create ‘Uncrackable’ Passwords

The best passwords are over 6 characters, include upper and lowercase letters, and use numbers and symbols. Passcreator.com can generate a password that is nearly impossible to crack. However, this would mean you probably won’t remember it on your own. So, if you have to write any of your passwords down keep that document separate from your laptop. You can write them down on a piece of paper and keep them in your wallet. You can store them on Google Drive. Just be sure to password protect the doc! You can also store them on an Excel spreadsheet and protect the workbook to make it harder for a hacker to view its contents.

Encrypt sensitive data. The consequences of a lost or stolen laptop can be minimized by encrypting the data stored on the device so that it cannot be accessed by anyone without the proper authorization.

Organizations should also consider protecting against data security breaches with insurance. Various cyber liability products are available to protect against privacy injuries, such as identity theft, and to cover the cost of complying with various data breach notice laws. Given the complexity of the risk, an experienced insurance agent should be consulted to ensure that adequate coverage is obtained. If you would like to learn more about insuring against data security breaches, contact us.

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