We’ve all done it before – left the table to get a coffee refill or go to the bathroom and left our laptop, iPad, smartphone or purse sitting on the table. We justify it by telling ourselves that we are in a friendly place and will only be gone a second. Our tendency is to blame technology for information theft, but the heart of the problem is almost always a human error, like leaving our devices unattended. Realizing that carelessness is the source of most laptop theft makes it a fairly easy problem to solve.
My office is directly above a Starbucks, so I spend way too much time there. And EVERY time I’m there, I watch someone head off to the restroom (see video) or refill their coffee and leave their laptop, iPad, iPhone, briefcase, purse, client files and just about everything else lying around on their table like a self-service gadget buffet for criminals and opportunists alike.
I trust deeply in the honesty and integrity of the people I know well, but if you are trusting your Starbucks crowd with this amazingly valuable data, you are going to get a steaming hot lap full of trouble. Data thieves target places like this because it is an upscale, trusting clientele. Just ask Ben Bernake, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose wife got taken at a Starbucks.
Just about 50% of major corporate data breaches are caused by the theft of a laptop computer. They don’t want the computer, they want the data on it, and it can cost your business millions. The average breach recovery cost, according to the highly respected Ponemon Institute, is $6.75 million dollars.
It’s one thing if you leave a personal computer and it gets stolen – you aren’t harming anyone other than you and your family. But when it’s a company computer, or has work files on it, you are putting your employer at risk for lawsuits, government compliance fines, reputation damage and months of headaches.
The answer is simple: train your employees first on personal responsibility with their data-bearing gadgets. If they understand the selfish reasons not to abandon their laptop or iPad in a cafe (the data on it is worth a mint, they could lose their job, etc.), the chances of them applying what they have learned strengthens. Additional points of training can include:
- Proper usage guidelines including what data can be loaded to the laptop and what cannot.
- Good password habits and a strong login password that is shared with no one.
- Proper use of WiFi (not the free hotspots at the cafe, airport or hotel)
- Tethering, remote tracking and remote wiping techniques to minimize risk.
- Encryption, especially simple PDF password encryption to email private files.
- Proper physical security while traveling with the laptop.
If you are going to expose yourself and your company while getting another cup of coffee, you might as well apply for a job as a Barista while you are there. Don’t endanger the health of your company (or the safety of your own personal data) for the sake of convenience. Next time, you might be the one caught on video.
Award-winning author and identity theft keynote speaker John Sileo trains executives and employees to respect and protect the data that makes their company profitable. His clients included the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FDIC, Pfizer, Blue Cross and organizations of all sizes. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076 or watch him deliver an Identity Theft Speech.