No, not really! But it is the number worry that crosses my mind whenever I take out my laptop from its case and put it on an open tray before it passes through X-rays at US airports. Mind you I don’t worry as much when I do the same thing at Asia’s airports. Maybe it has to do with the ssssllllooooowwwwww process by which people line up to get pass the metal detectors at most US airports.
Anyway, a recent posting on govinfosecurity says that The U.S. Interior Department can’t locate 20% of its PCs (mostly laptops), ‘potentially exposing sensitive and personally identifiable information’ according to a new department inspector general report.
And I thought some of Hong Kong government departments were laxed with regards to the safeguard of citizen’s data. Hey, the DOI people are losing laptops, not memory sticks!
The same report claims that most departmental-issued computers are not encrypted. Michael Colombo, Western regional manager of Interior’s IG office, noted in a memo: “Compounded by the department’s lack of computer accountability, its absence of encryption requirements leaves the department vulnerable to sensitive and personally identifiable information being lost, stolen or misused.”
I understand the recent spate of embarrasing moments regarding the lost of sensitive data by the Hong Kong Police and the Hospital Authority is forcing the Hong Kong Government to react more swiftly.
At the recently concluded Info-Security Summit in Hong Kong, Stephen Mak, Deputy Government Chief Information Officer, Hong Kong SAR, stressed the importance of information security in the public sector. Although he cites the Hong Kong Government’s efforts in putting forth policy on security and data privacy, he warns that sustainability of a security strategy is on ongoing challange.
But having a policy and enforcing it are two different matters. Much as you can have the safest car in the world but if you drive while intoxicated, you are inviting trouble.
Chris Pirillo offers ten practical tips for keeping your laptop safe when traveling. You dont have to travel overseas to heed these tips. Even taking home a laptop is inviting disaster. Below is another set of helpful tips from the guys at staysafeonline.org:
Treat your laptop like cash. If you had a wad of money sitting out in a public place, would you turn your back on it—even for just a minute? Of course not! Keep a careful eye on your laptop just as you would a pile of cash.
Keep it locked. Whether you’re using your laptop in the office, a hotel, or other public place, a security device can make it more difficult for someone to steal it. Use a laptop security cable: attach it to something immovable or to a heavy piece of furniture that’s difficult to move, such as a table or a desk.
Keep it off the floor. No matter where you are in public—at a conference, a coffee shop, or a registration desk—avoid putting your laptop on the floor. If you must put it down, place it between your feet or at least up against your leg, so that you’re aware of it.
Use a non-descript carrying case. Use a form fitting sleeve to protect the laptop and carry it in your briefcase, backpack or tote. If using something with a zipper, consider adding a small lock to the zipper to keep hands from easily reaching in to the bag.
Keep your passwords elsewhere. Remembering strong passwords or access numbers can be difficult. However, leaving either in a laptop carrying case or on your laptop is like leaving the keys in your car. There’s no reason to make it easy for a thief to get to your personal or corporate information.
Password protect your system. Use startup passwords to prevent thieves from easily accessing your data. Make sure to choose a strong password that would not be easy to guess. Drawing a blank on what to use? Consider a favorite saying or line from a song and use the first letter of each word. Adding capital letters and/or numbers will help to strengthen the password even more.
Backup important data before traveling. No one wants to think about losing their data, but a few minutes spent backing up your files will protect you later.
Write it down. Make note of your laptop’s serial number and keep it in a safe place. This will help the police to return it to you should it be recovered.
Mark it. Engrave your name and phone number on the laptop case or affix a permanent asset tag. These permanent forms of identification will help police to return the laptop to you if found and will make it just a little harder for thieves to sell your laptop to unsuspecting buyers.
Finally, if the worst does happen and your laptop is stolen, report it to local authorities immediately. If it was a business laptop, also notify your employer.