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10 Tips for Preventing Laptop and Mobile Device Theft

In today’s business environment, the theft or loss of even a single laptop computer cell phone or tablet can be devastating – unless you take some common sense measures to mitigate the damage ahead of time.

It’s not just the cost of the lost device itself. If there is confidential, proprietary or personally identifiable information on the device – or readily accessible through it – your company could be exposed to substantial liability, fines and penalties. On average, total costs to U.S. companies incurring the theft or loss of a digital device can run to nearly $217 per record in fines, recovery costs, legal fees, customer loss and PR crisis expenditures, according to the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study.

Here are some tips to help you and your employees prevent mobile device theft.

  1. Don’t let strangers “borrow” your phone or computer to look up directions or send an email. There are cases of criminals bolting as soon as they have possession of the device. In other cases, they may surreptitiously install malware or spyware on your device that could compromise your sensitive information.
  2. Don’t use computer carrying cases that look too much like computer carrying cases. These attract the attention of thieves. Ideally, your carrying case will not attract attention to itself.
  3. Use device tracking services. Many laptop manufacturers include optional tracing services. Alternatively, you can install or attach an external tracking device to your computer. It may not prevent theft, but you may be able to quickly recover the computer, or force the criminal to get rid of it prematurely, limiting the damage they cause. Computrace’s LoJack for Laptops, one popular solution, takes advantage of GPS technology and will give you a precise location of a missing device for just $29 per year.
  4. Maintain situational awareness. Don’t flaunt your brand new mobile device using it prominently and visibly in public out on the street. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 55 percent of all larcenies in New York City involve smartphone theft, as did 46 percent of all robberies. In San Francisco, 59 percent of robberies involve smartphones.
  5. Install an irremovable tag, such as a STOP Security Plate. These make these computers very difficult for criminals to resell or pawn and may help deter theft. The STOP Security Plate, impossible to remove, also instructs anyone who finds your computer to call their 1-800 number to report your computer or device stolen. Once they do, the vendor will call you with instructions on how to recover your device.
  6. Going through an airport security checkpoint? Don’t put your laptop on the conveyor belt until you are very next in line. Otherwise your laptop may make it through security before you do – and be vulnerable to theft on the other side of the checkpoint.
  7. Cable your laptop. Several vendors make a lightweight but very strong cable that you can use to secure your laptop to your wrist, your briefcase, or even temporarily to a table you are working on in public – making it nearly impossible for thieves to run away with your computer. Most thieves, seeing the cable, will move on to an easier target. You can get a basic cable and computer locking kit on Amazon for less than $13.00 as of this writing.
  8. Traveling? Store the laptop in your hotel room safe, if possible. If there is no safe and you can’t bring your laptop with you, lock your suitcase and store it there.
  9. Never ask a stranger to ‘watch your computer’ for a moment in public. Always pack your computer back up to go use the restroom, get another drink, or anything else.
  10. Never leave your laptop in the car. Your car insurance may cover the cost of a stolen laptop (minus a deductible). It does not cover the cost of lost productivity or data loss mitigation.
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