Monday, October 30, 2006
T-Mobile USA Inc. just recently announced that one of its laptop computers had gone missing. According to reports, the apparent theft put past and current employees’ sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, at risk.
Where have we heard this before? Just about every week, it seems. And it doesn't only seem this way; it is this way. And whenever a laptop computer goes missing, two primary concerns haunt the organization that owns it: the portable computer’s whereabouts and the nature of the data on it. Both problems can lead to the loss of thousands of dollars, and rarely does any organization that loses an unsecured laptop recover the machine or the data that it stored.
Even so, the installation of systems for GPS tracking and data recovery and retrieval would be simple and affordable for firms -- and would greatly mitigate the many difficulties that otherwise beset them when their laptops are lost to thieves. An organization that wants to avoid the prohibitive costs associated with laptop loss and theft, should equip its portable computer fleet with GPS tracking technology and systems for the recovery and retrieval of data.
MyLaptopGPS, an Oklahoma-based firm, uses proprietary Internet-based GPS, a user-friendly system that tracks the whereabouts of misplaced and stolen laptops more efficiently and at far less of an expense than do offerings from other GPS providers. And the company’s product of the same name, MyLaptopGPS™, goes a step further by installing software that encrypts and silently removes important files from lost laptops—returning these electronic documents to their rightful owners while placing the data out of criminals’ reach.
According to MyLaptopGPS' chief technology officer, “Why make the laptop computer thief’s job any easier than it already is? High-profile thefts can bring attention to this issue, but there’s little comfort when an enormous percentage of small and large businesses continue to sit completely idle. MyLaptopGPS turns the tables, enabling businesses to remotely, covertly, and inexpensively destroy stolen data—with or without recovering it first—and track the criminals who stole the machines in the first place.”
Studies now show that the total number of records lost this year due to data security breaches has reached 100 million. Many of these breaches have been laptop computer thefts. With so much affordable counter-theft technology available, smart organizations are investing in themselves, their customers, and employees by spending a little money up front to save everyone a mountain of money later.
The past year has witnessed countless, major security breaches involving laptop computers, putting millions of consumers’ identities at risk of theft. I encourage organizations to stave off further portable computer thefts and losses by considering GPS tracking technology for their fleets of laptops.
GPS is the simplest solution for organizations trying to address their laptop computer security concerns. These machines are easy to steal and can go missing anywhere. MyLaptopGPS, an Oklahoma-based company, provides a particularly attractive form of GPS tracking as a service. If the technology is affordable, like MyLaptopGPS’, organizations are remiss not to install it on their entire laptop fleets.
MyLaptopGPS uses proprietary Internet-based GPS, an affordable technology that makes the company’s product of the same name easy to use and preferable to offerings from other GPS providers. MyLaptopGPS™ also installs software that encrypts and silently removes important files from lost laptops—returning these electronic documents to their rightful owners while placing the data out of criminals’ reach.
According to MyLaptopGPS' chief technology officer, “MyLaptopGPS allows responsible and conscientious companies to track stolen laptops. But much more importantly, it allows the rightful owners to ‘push the big red button’ and delete sensitive data from the stolen machine right under the thief’s nose, simultaneously transferring it back to a secure location. This is, by far, the most important consideration.
The past year’s spate of government data breaches recently prompted the House Government Reform Committee to investigate. As reported by CNET News, the committee found each of the government’s 19 agencies reporting at least one loss of data since 2003. Meanwhile, earlier this month the Department of Homeland Security released a report that found laptop computers at its own Inspector General’s Office in many ways unsecured. DHS’s findings followed many months' worth of incidents and worrisome revelations, including those at General Electric Co., the Commerce Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, Hotels.com, Equifax Inc., and elsewhere.
Laptops have always been a target of thieves due to their ease of procurement and resale value. In the past an organization would fret over the monetary loss of the machine. Today, the laptop’s value is equal to the cost of a press release announcing the theft of the machine’s data, plus the hundreds and thousands, if not millions, of dollars the company ends up spending to protect consumers from the theft.
Research into the financial impact of laptop computer theft has suggested that the loss of just one laptop computer can cost as much as $90,000, or even more. The findings, available since 2002, further illustrate the implications of losing even just one laptop computer -- not to mention the utility of the alternative: GPS tracking technology.
Organizations faced with lost data often incur financial costs related to fines, credit monitoring for victims, public relations damage control, and class action litigation. Companies are only hurting themselves when they ignore the logical alternative to these costs: safeguarding laptops by equipping them with affordable GPS tracking technology.
The loss of a laptop computer belonging to General Electric Co., stolen (according to reports) in September from a locked hotel room where a GE employee authorized to use the computer had left it, contained the Social Security numbers of approximately 50,000 current and former employees of the company. According to the 2002 Computer Security Institute/FBI Computer Crime & Security Survey, the theft of a laptop results in an average financial loss of $89,000, with only a small percentage of the sum actually relating to the hardware cost.
The potential financial cost from this past year’s losses and thefts alone is staggering. Because of this, organizations owe it to themselves, employees, and customers to minimize the impact of laptop computer loss and theft. And yet, for a nominal monthly fee that pales in comparison to the financial cost of lost laptops, MyLaptopGPS™ uses GPS to track these machines when they are lost or stolen. The product also installs software that encrypts and silently removes the important files from them—returning these electronic documents to the rightful user while placing them out of a criminal’s reach.
GPS tracking technology solves many problems caused due to loss or theft. The simplest way for a company to keep track of laptop computers, which frequently travel with employees, is to equip these machines with GPS.
GPS Tracking Will Curb the Rate of Laptop Computer Loss and Theft
News of the widespread loss of Commerce Department laptops since 2001—many assigned to the Census Bureau—has provided possible hints to explain the boom in identity theft seen these past few years, according to an authority in the field. The Commerce Department’s revelation of more than a thousand laptops lost earlier this fall, together with previously publicized research and the theft of laptops from other firms, has illustrated the need for companies to turn to solutions such as GPS tracking to curb the rate of laptops being irretrievably stolen or lost.
When you lose more than a thousand laptops—many of them containing Census Bureau data—less-than-scrupulous individuals are bound to find the information useful. With Census Bureau data in hand, the identity thief’s puzzle is a particularly easy one to complete.
Companies ought to consider solutions from providers such as MyLaptopGPS (www.mylaptopgps.com), whose product of the same name not only tracks any stolen laptop worldwide via the Internet, but also silently removes important files once the machine is stolen—returning them to the rightful user while placing them out of the criminal’s reach.
The Commerce Department released figures showing the loss of more than 1,100 laptops since the year 2001. More than half, according to reports, had been assigned to the Census Bureau. The news was no surprise:
• In May, the theft of a laptop from the Veterans Affairs Department jeopardized millions of U.S. veterans’ identities. A few months later, another laptop theft there put the personal information of additional veterans at risk.
• In June, Hotels.com reported the loss of a company laptop containing the financial records of about 243,000 customers.
• Also in June, Equifax Inc., one of the three major credit reporting companies, suffered the theft of a laptop computer containing identifying information on the company’s 2,500 U.S. employees.
And more breaches have occurred since. Laptop security needs a revamp. These machines are, apparently, difficult for organizations to track and keep. GPS and other technologies would go a long way in curbing the rate of laptop loss and theft.
The state of data security is in shambles. Anyone who watches the news knows this.
And the policies surrounding employee use of company-issue laptops seem to be particularly lax. In fact, laptops seem to be the weak link when it comes to data security. Research continues to find that the frequency of laptop theft in the workplace is high. Companies need to guard laptops—and the information allowed to be stored on these devices—with more vigor.
Earlier this year, the Ponemon Institute LLC and Vontu Inc. released the findings of a joint survey on the state of laptop security. Of the 500 information security professionals who participated, 81 percent reported the loss of a company laptop this past year. Furthermore, 53 percent said sensitive or confidential data stored on USB memory sticks would be impossible to track. The Ponemon–Vontu research seemed to bolster findings from an October 2005 report by CREDANT Technologies. CREDANT’s survey of 283 Global 2000 professionals found them estimating that as many as 90 percent of missing company laptops house sensitive data. The respondents, who largely agreed that laptops are most likely to be lost or stolen at work, also indicated that nearly three fourths of missing company laptops are noncompliant with California SB 1386’s encryption data requirements.
We’re seeing trends in companies’ laptop security. Despite the official post-theft statements from affected organizations, these laptops seem to be in transit often, and unsecured. And they also seem to hold sensitive data that should never be stored on portable computers.
In May, the highly publicized theft of a laptop from the Veterans Affairs Department jeopardized millions of U.S. veterans’ identities. A few months later, the theft of another laptop from the same government agency put more veterans’ personal information at risk of theft. Meanwhile, in June, Hotels.com reported the loss of a company laptop containing the financial records of about 243,000 customers, and Equifax Inc., one of the three major credit reporting companies, suffered the theft of a laptop computer containing identifying information on the company’s 2,500 U.S. employees. More high-profile thefts and losses have occurred since.
Companies should physically lock access to their laptop computers and use GPS to track them. A product from Staples®, WordLock™, allows users to employ a letter password that can be reset at any time to lock a laptop computer. And MyLaptopGPS™, an offering from AIT Solutions, LLC, not only tracks any stolen laptop worldwide via the Internet, but also silently removes all important files once the machine is stolen—returning them to the rightful user while placing them out of the criminal’s reach.