New technology, new ways for your stuff to get stolen

Nick Harvey and Nick Harvey

Everyone should know a locked car is an awful place to leave something valuable. Laptops, iPods, the one ring or those pictures from one night you’d rather forget, are all things that should be locked up in a safe place. Unfortunately, this seemingly common knowledge seems to be uncommon.

From Oct. 8 to Oct. 15, University police responded to 10 vehicle break-ins. I guess they were not technically break-ins because nine of the 10 vehicles were unlocked. Many people have lost their iPods, CD players, GPS systems and spare change between their seat cushions. Even though the loss of an iPod to a college student is near equal to the loss of a family member, it could have been worse. They could have lost a laptop containing the personal information of 10,000 Home Depot employees.

Unfortunately, this is the case for a Home Depot regional manager in Massachusetts. Somehow the laptop was stolen from the impenetrable fortress in which he stored it (in his car in his driveway.) Leaving a laptop in a car is a good way to make it disappear. Leaving one that has been dipped in social security numbers is just plain reckless.

If stored in a car, the only thing between a $1,500 laptop with priceless information and the envious eyes of a passer-by is a piece of glass. Glass that could be easily shattered by just about anything. A rock, a baseball bat, or a solid head-butt could make it through a piece of glass. When the security of so many people is at stake, these laptops need to be taken better care of. If my social security number is on someone’s computer, it better not be sitting shotgun of their car.

This is just one case in a long line of laptop heists that has jeopardized the privacy and security of countless employees. A little over a month ago, Gap Inc. lost a laptop with the information of 800,000 employees and applicants on it. The University of Iowa lost a laptop on Oct. 9 putting 184 students at risk of identity theft. A second company, Administaff, in just the last week, announced they had a laptop stolen. They lost the information of 159,000 employees.

In this age of convenience, the smaller the better. Laptops are practical for homework, taking notes in classes or business purposes. One thing they are apparently not good for is carrying confidential information. Once something like a computer becomes mobile, it is bad news for security because if it can be carried, it can be lost or left in a car. If all private information was left on desktop computers, it would be a little harder to make an inconspicuous get away.

Another idea is to simply store the employee data in a safe place. It would reduce the amount of hardware storing this information and thus reduce the possibility of a theft. This would be putting all the eggs in one basket, but it would be better than having employees carry this information with them.

For those who absolutely need to carry the social security numbers of all their employees, there is some hope. Password protection, data encryption and programs alert the owner if a laptop is stolen and used to connect to the Internet. Computrace, a program that locates where the stolen laptop is when used to connect to the Internet, only costs about $3 a month per device.

An article from reports one in every 10 laptops will be stolen, one every 12 seconds.

This will continue to be the price we will pay for convenience of laptops unless another system is devised. It is detrimental to a company’s image and to an individual’s security for these laptops to continue floating around wily nilly.