Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

2/22/2017
10:15 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

6 Tips for Preventing Laptop Data Theft

Experts point to stronger passwords, full-disk encryption, and multi-factor authentication as ways to stop data theft in the event a laptop is lost or stolen.

Anybody can have their laptop stolen. It happened to Hillary Clinton's campaign last fall, when three laptops were stolen from campaign workers in Philadelphia. In that case, the devices were ultimately recovered and no data appeared to compromised in what was considered a routine theft.

But laptop thefts can cost money. An Intel study from several years ago found that the average laptop theft costs companies roughly $50,000 – and up to $1 million in some cases.

Such thefts can be very damaging. Last year, Oregon's Health Co-op, a nonprofit health insurance company, reported that a stolen laptop compromised the personal information of more than 15,000 current and former members.

Al Sargent, senior director of products at OneLogIn, notes that Kaspersky Lab found that the average worker takes more than 24 hours to report a lost or stolen device. That's plenty of time for criminals to steal data or access the company's corporate network.  

"Gartner reports that one laptop is stolen every 53 seconds," Sargent says. "What we suggest is that companies look to a single sign-on solution to change the social contract. Basically, it's the IT department telling the users to come up with one strong password in exchange for better security."

Frank Dickson, research director for worldwide security products at IDC, says SSO with a strong password only goes so far, however.

"The problem I have with SSO is that it still relies on the password," Dickson says. "There are other forms of authentication, such as push notification to a cell phone and a YubiKey that companies can use. SSO needs to be paired with strong authentication to add that extra level of protection."

Alex McSporran, director at Control Risk and International SOS, adds that companies need to spend some time training employees on these issues, especially the ones who travel for business.

"The training will equip them with a better understanding of the nature of the risk, and the measures they can take to better secure their information," McSporran says. “While technical defenses remain critical, appropriate training, planning, preparedness and vigilance can make a real difference."

Here are some tips compiled from Sargent, Dickson and McSporran, for reducing laptop and laptop data thefts:

Deploy a single, very strong password. Companies moving to more cloud applications understand that it's become impossible for users to manage a password for each cloud app. By issuing a single sign-on system with one strong password, they will make life easier for both the IT staff and the rank-and-file users. It's much tougher to break into a well-thought out strong password. But SSO still has its single point of failure weaknesses, so experts recommend using multifactor authentication (see next tip).

Employ strong authentication. IDC’s Dickson is a stickler for strong, multi-factor authentication. He especially likes a push notification that gets authenticated on a cell phone. For example, if someone steals an employee’s laptop, they also need to have stolen their cell phone to access the laptop. Plus, people generally know when they’ve lost their cell phones and don’t wait 24 hours to report a loss, and most cell phones require a fingerprint ID or password.   

Rotate passwords. Teach people about the credential supply chain. When credentials are stolen they get bundled with other stolen credentials for sale on the black market. Change passwords every 30 days. In the event that a laotop is stolen, there's a better chance that the password that was stolen will no longer be valid.

Do research on your travel site. Before your remote employees travel, have them research the potential threats to your company's sensitive commercial information specific to the location they will be visiting. This will help them take effective security measures to help prevent problems during the trip.

Don't broadcast your trip. Unless it's your spouse, significant other, or key people at work, don't advertise a business trip. People are free and easy on Facebook today about their travels and it may not always be a good idea.  

Think in terms of BYOD. Companies may decide that it just makes more sense to get out of the business of managing technology. Many companies are just giving people an allowance for a laptop and smartphone and making each person responsible for the device’s maintenance. From a security perspective, this can be scary, so if your company goes this route, know what kind of encryption the devices have. Macs come with FileVault and it’s possible to remote wipe devices via iCloud. For PCs, make sure they have full-disk encryption, experts say.

Related Content:

Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
James D. Jones
50%
50%
James D. Jones,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2018 | 5:44:27 AM
nice
Really healpful information.
jimmy666
50%
50%
jimmy666,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2018 | 12:05:47 PM
The burning issue
In the progressive age of 21st century as every age has its own devils, here we can find data breach or data theft as its dark and most grim devil. Data theft is a serious concern for all of us now and it shall grow on with the proliferation of technology. You can also see it on my website if you follow Apple Support UK but our main aim should only be to reduce it as far as we can just to cease it from being our Achilles' heel. A very relevant article this is. 
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 10/23/2020
7 Tips for Choosing Security Metrics That Matter
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  10/19/2020
Russian Military Officers Unmasked, Indicted for High-Profile Cyberattack Campaigns
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  10/19/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-24847
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
A Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) vulnerability is identified in FruityWifi through 2.4. Due to a lack of CSRF protection in page_config_adv.php, an unauthenticated attacker can lure the victim to visit his website by social engineering or another attack vector. Due to this issue, an unauthenticat...
CVE-2020-24848
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
FruityWifi through 2.4 has an unsafe Sudo configuration [(ALL : ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL]. This allows an attacker to perform a system-level (root) local privilege escalation, allowing an attacker to gain complete persistent access to the local system.
CVE-2020-5990
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
NVIDIA GeForce Experience, all versions prior to 3.20.5.70, contains a vulnerability in the ShadowPlay component which may lead to local privilege escalation, code execution, denial of service or information disclosure.
CVE-2020-25483
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
An arbitrary command execution vulnerability exists in the fopen() function of file writes of UCMS v1.4.8, where an attacker can gain access to the server.
CVE-2020-5977
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-23
NVIDIA GeForce Experience, all versions prior to 3.20.5.70, contains a vulnerability in NVIDIA Web Helper NodeJS Web Server in which an uncontrolled search path is used to load a node module, which may lead to code execution, denial of service, escalation of privileges, and information disclosure.