WOOF! Newsletter

April 06, 2017

Avoid Laptop Theft When Traveling: 7 Precautions to Take

Need some tips on how to keep your laptop safe while traveling for work? We've got 7!

Thieves are after your company's laptops.

Stolen laptop reports have increased over the past year, particularly when our customers commute or travel for work.  Laptops get lifted at airports, stolen from cars, and taken from hotel rooms.  It’s a terrible feeling and a big disruption to our customer’s work.

While hardware replacement costs aren’t cheap, the real concern is lost data.  The data on your machine can cost your business much more . . . both in terms of lost files, and in liability.

What The Thieves are After: Data

Data on a laptop is the #1 target, especially for business travelers.  Why?  It’s valuable.  One laptop could contain:

  • Network access logins for the entire company’s IT
  • Contact lists of employees, managers, consultants, and partners
  • Corporate Intellectual Property (IP) useful to a competitor, or foreign government
  • Credit Card and Bank Account Numbers
  • PII (Personally Identifiable Information) on the laptop’s (former) owner
  • All of the above

Think of the liability when corporate data is stolen.  Customer records exposed to fraud.  HIPAA violation penalties.  Data breach cleanup costs ($217-$221 per lost record).  Lawsuit and settlement payouts.

We just installed BitLocker (full disk encryption) on all company laptops for one customer.  They were sending a team to Asia, and each employee had Intellectual Property on their laptops.  Wise decision.  

How Brazen are Data Thieves?  Dangerously So.

No surprise that this kind of theft is global.  Nowhere is safe.  Laptops are stolen out of cars parked on the street.  Parking lots.  Airports.  Even hotel rooms.

This is why we advise our customers to never leave their laptops in hotel rooms unless they are locked in the safe.  Laptops left out in hotel rooms are at risk of comprise, even if they aren’t stolen.

Picture this:  While you’re at dinner, a thief breaks into your hotel room.  They access your left-behind laptop, copying all the data they can.  Next, they install malware to keep monitoring the computer quietly (just in case you have more data they want later).

Then they close up the laptop and leave everything like they found it.  You’d never know anything happened, but you’ve lost control of your business’ data.

Just a few examples of data theft while traveling:

Protect Your Laptop (and its Data) from Theft

We CAN do a lot to preserve data.  While you should always use a strong password, that doesn’t help if your laptop gets swiped!

Fortunately, you can do many things to protect corporate data on laptops…even if they are stolen.

  1. Train all traveling employees on device safety.  Anyone traveling for work should know to keep their laptops & phones with them at all times.  They may think dropping things off in a hotel room is safe.  Thousands of thieves & hackers worldwide count on such behavior.
  2. Use encryption on all computers.  We mentioned BitLocker, for Windows 10 computers.  Macs have FileVault 2 available for the same purpose.
  3. Add Cloud Backups to your backup routines.  If you only backup to a USB drive, and it’s in your laptop bag?  That’s gone too.  Never rely on only one form of backup.  Use both a USB backup drive (left at home or the office) and a cloud backup.  Cloud backups are a small monthly cost, and run in real-time.  Since the data is always up-to-date and easy to put on a new computer, you can get back up & running in as little as 1 day.
  4. Sync your phone to your laptop, to merge its data (contacts, pictures, messages) with the laptop’s backup.  This way one backup routine collects the data from both devices.
  5. Use Remote Wipe.  Many apps and platforms come with Remote Wipe functionality.  This allows you to enter a code on another computer, and trigger a wipe (all data erased) on the stolen device.  iPhones are famous for this, but they’re not alone.  Microsoft’s Exchange Server & the Anchor file sharing platform are two more examples of software with Remote Wipe.
  6. Deploy an MDM (Mobile Device Management) Solution.  MDM increases security by giving you more real-time control over mobile devices.  If you allow BYOD, an MDM solution keeps corporate data separate (and secured) from personal data on employee’s devices.  We recommend one of these leading MDM solutions:
    1. Airwatch – Leader in MDM product space.  Highly configurable for keeping track of mobile devices, monitoring their activity, encrypting their data, and protecting them against malware.  Works well on iOS and Windows devices.
    2. MaaS360 – Created by IBM, MaaS360 goes beyond mobile device management.  It includes all MDM functions, as well as inventory control, remote wipe, and support for managing laptops on the go…critical for workers traveling!
  7. Use Asset Tagging.  Buy some bona fide asset tags and tag & track each laptop’s details:  serial numbers, hardware model, purchase price, device ID, accounts assigned, location, etc. (We prefer My Asset Tag.)  It may help police recover the laptop, but it also helps with insurance claims and tracking assets for business property tax purposes. 

Your Laptop’s Data is Valuable.  Protect it at All Times!

We wrote in January about hackers using open Wi-Fi on flights to steal data from other passengers.  Airports and hotels, the beginnings and endings of most work-related trips, are also danger zones for your company’s data.

That’s why preparation ahead of time is key to prevent laptop theft.  The data is worth a lot to thieves.  Deny them the access they want with data protection, good backups…and keep your laptop with you at all times.


Have an IT question you’d like us to tackle?  Email us at woof@planetmagpie.com and we’ll put it on the WOOF! topics list.