But those same leaders rarely take extra steps to protect sensitive business data from laptop theft, which has reached epidemic levels.
Consider what happened when an insurance executive had two laptops stolen from a car. They contained critical data on 200,000 customers ...who then had to be told that they were potential victims of identity theft.
Many thefts occur in hotels, where rings of computer thieves snag laptops left momentarily unattended in checkout lines and conference rooms. In-company thefts are also rising, sometimes perpetrated by false job applicants who strike when a receptionist leaves the front desk.
Here are some strategies that Northrop Grumman and other organizations are using to protect themselves from data-theft disaster:
- Jolt your people with horror stories about the rash of laptop thefts.
- Restrict the kind of data that people can take home on their laptops.
- Record all laptops’ serial numbers.
- Don’t allow people to take laptops abroad, where laptop theft is particularly rampant.
- Require all laptop users to protect their data with passwords that they change frequently: a minor inconvenience that discourages thieves from cracking into data.
- Keep a tight watch on all drop-in visitors, including service people and job applicants. Make sure they’re escorted to their destinations, then escorted out again. If possible, have visitors use restrooms near the reception area that are physically separated from interior offices and conference rooms.
- Inform local law-enforcement agencies when machines are stolen. Even though you might never recover the laptops, the information you provide can help police crack and prosecute theft rings.