Written on July 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm, by Ramon Ray
The cost of a stolen laptop, smartphone, or tablet goes far beyond the price your small business will pay to replace it. The true cost comes with the cost of the compromised data on that laptop.
Security expert Rob Humphrey writes on his blog, that half of all laptops stolen have stored on them passwords, personal information, and credit card details. When devices are business-related, the danger extends to the business you’ve worked so hard to build. Look at your business’s mobile devices and ask yourself, what would be compromised if those devices were lost or stolen?
Security studies reveal that forty-seven percent of misplaced devices are lost while offsite, often on business trips or while at a client’s office. For small business owners and workers who travel regularly with mobile devices, here are a few tips to help keep your equipment secure.
- Keep your hardware secure. One of the best ways to make sure your data remains secure is to always keep your devices in your sight. Wrap the strap of your laptop bag around your arm while at the airport and never leave your items unattended. If you’re staying at a hotel, go to the trouble of storing all of your devices in a safe. Some hotels even have safes in the room. Often rooms are left open while being cleaned, and your laptop or smartphone may be left in full view of those passing by.
- Be careful what you store locally. VPN accounts are a secure way to reach important files without saving them on your device. If any of your electronic items are compromised, the miscreant will only see your VPN account sign-in, with no way to access it without a password. Cloud-based networking can also be a great way to access your files without them being stored on your computer. Just make sure your system doesn’t automatically pass anyone through who is able to get into your computer.
- Use encryption. Encryption and login passwords are a must for any device that stores work-related materials. Consider installing GPS software that will help the authorities track your device if it is stolen. If the device is a tablet or smartphone, third-party apps can help you track it down if it’s ever lost or stolen. Be sure you use complex passwords, consisting of a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Consider the consequences. If any sensitive customer information is compromised—social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.—your business will be expected to send letters to all affected individuals notifying them of the breach. Such a letter campaign can cause embarrassment and even lead customers to drop your service. Some businesses have chosen to pay for a year of identity theft protection for all potentially affected individuals. Between the cost of the mailing campaign, the time lost notifying all possibly affected customers, and the potential cost of paying for identity theft protection, the cost to replace your stolen device will be a drop in the bucket.
- If a device is stolen, don’t cover it up. A business owner or CIO can and will be held responsible if customer information is compromised and the appropriate steps aren’t taken. First, notify authorities and file a police report, especially if the device has been stolen. Second, contact others in your organization and change any passwords that might apply to the device. If possible, activate any tracking you have on the device. Third, formulate an action plan to safeguard any customer data that was compromised.
VIGILLANCE is something else you can always do and it’s free. It’s really a matter of being AWARE of your surroundings and knowing who is around you and where your mobile device and accessories are.
Unfortunately, the more mobile devices each of us add to our arsenal, the more likely we are to misplace one or more of those devices. By making sure every device you carry is free of sensitive information, as well as locked down with passwords and encryption, you’ll help protect yourself against a disastrous data breach.