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PropertyBoss Mar 2015 0 Comments
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Safer Travels!

Traveling can be a challenging experience in and of itself, but add in a misplaced laptop and you’ve entered a whole new world of stress.Travel safety is constantly in the news and airport security measures may put you at higher risk of losing your laptop. Since you are trying to avoid those pesky baggage fees, traversing the TSA checkpoint involves juggling various plastic bins along with your carry-on. Once you’ve passed through the full-body scanner, the scramble continues. Not only are you putting your shoes, belt and jacket back on, but also reacquiring the contents of your pockets, replacing the plastic baggy of 3 oz. liquids into your suitcase, all while the bins and people keep coming at you. During that rush you may forget to put that most important device, your laptop, back into your bag. The loss of a laptop isn’t only felt through its monetary value, but also through the data that may be stored on it, especially if it contains personal data of others.

A ReAl-woRlD story

Not only can this happen to you, it did happen to me. Returning from the NARPM® convention on the last flight from Reagan National Airport last October, I discovered my laptop was missing when deplaning. I can still recall the panic at midnight on that fateful Friday night. Since the laptop bag was weighted down with materials from the show, I did not notice the absence of my laptop. After the dread subsided, I mentally retraced my steps and determined that I had failed to retrieve the laptop from a bin at the TSA security checkpoint in Washington, DC.

Finding a TSA agent at that hour was a challenge. She was pleasant, but not helpful. Once home, I conducted an online search and located a phone number for the DCA TSA office. After a seemingly eternally long number of rings I managed to talk with a TSA agent. He told me that all abandoned items were turned over to the airport lost and found department. Further research provided a phone number which I called immediately. After a number of attempts, I reached an agent who responded to the desperation in my voice. After the requisite disclaimers, he acknowledged that a device similar to my description was in the previous night’s take. Unfortunately, the lost and found office did not open until the following Monday morning. As instructed, I submitted a claim online and then battened down for a very long weekend.

In what I suspect was a move on my wife’s part to get my sorry self out of the house, was a suggestion that I fly back to Washington. I rejected this proposal only because I deemed the probability of success very low. Late Monday morning, I received a call from a very pleasant lost and found agent. She confirmed that they had my laptop and asked for a FedEx® account number. The following afternoon, the MIA laptop was back in my expectant hands with a cheerful cover letter from the agent. It was a happy ending to a very trying ordeal. I did learn a number of measures you can take to increase the chances a missing laptop is safely and quickly returned to you.

secURIty MeAsUres yoU cAN tAKe

Consider the following suggestions to improve the security of your laptop:

  • Affix your name & contact information to your laptop. – Attach your name and contact information (a business card works well) on the bottom of your laptop. Adding an additional note such as “Reward if lost or stolen – no questions asked” may also increase your chances of recovery in the instance of theft or a simple mix-up.
  • Record laptop information – Save a detailed description of your laptop, including serial number, manufacturer, model, and color in a few easily retrievable locations. You will need this information to identify and assert ownership to the lost and found agent.
  • Make sure your laptop is listed on your homeowners or company’s insurance policy. – In the event that your laptop is lost or stolen and cannot be recovered, make sure your property is covered under a policy in order to recoup your loss. Review the fine print as some policies require a police report to be filed within a specified time period.
  • Install a security/anti-theft program – MacBooks come with a built-in anti-theft program, called “Find My Mac.” You just have to activate it through the iCloud program. PC owners can download programs such as LoJack. Both programs allow its user to locate, remotely lock and wipe their laptop giving an extra level of security and comfort.
  • Back-up your data before leaving – Backing up your data serves two purposes; one preventing against the loss of data should your computer unexpectedly crash on you without your trusted IT vendor nearby, the other protecting against data loss from a stolen or misplaced computer. There are multitudes of online back-up services so your data is readily accessible should you need it, even when on the go.
  • Use a screen guard – Be wary of predators who attempt to glean your personal information by peering over your shoulder. Screen guards help prevent others from
    viewing your screen, even if they peek over your shoulder. They are especially useful if you are working on sensitive information in a public area.
  • Use strong passwords and encrypt essential data. – You’ve heard it time and time again but using a secure password (and different passwords for each application) is the first step to thwart unauthorized access to your laptop and your files. These passwords that you have worked hard to develop will do you no good if you have them listed within your briefcase or on your computer. Without those or other important access numbers, it becomes more difficult for a thief to access your personal and business information. Encrypting your data gives you another level of security beyond passwords. This way, even if someone does gain access to an important file, they cannot view your protected information.
  • Carry your laptop with you – Be sure to carry your laptop with you at all times rather than checking it with your luggage. As you travel to your destination, if you need to put your bag down, be sure to rest it against your leg so you are always aware of its presence. If traveling by car, be sure to lock your laptop in the trunk if you cannot take it with you.
  • Use a nondescript bag -Not only are laptop bags a sure sign that you have an important piece of equipment with you that is filled with potentially lucrative data, many look exactly the same. Using a padded briefcase, messenger bag or suitcase gives you a discreet option and has a higher probability of differentiating you from all of the other travelers.
  • Be careful when using Wi-Fi – Most public wireless networks are unsecured, leaving you vulnerable to attack. The best solution to use if you must connect through a public network is by signing into a VPN which will encrypt all data coming and going from your laptop. An even better option would be to create your own WiFi hot spot through your smartphone, Mobile HotSpot Unit or USB Internet Stick. Regardless of what option you
    use, make sure that any web-based services you access have a URL beginning with “https” to ensure you are using a secure connection.
  • Avoid leaving your laptop in your hotel room – When at all possible be sure to carry your laptop with you at all times. If you must leave it within your hotel room, place it out of sight. Use a laptop security cable to affix the laptop to a stationary piece of furniture and place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.

wHAt to Do IN tHe cAse oF loss

Hopefully you have exercised the suggested measures of backing up and encrypting your data should you misplace your laptop or discover it has been stolen. Regardless, here are some additional steps to take in the event of loss:

  1. Change your network password in order to restrict access to corporate servers.
  2. Report the theft to your local authorities as well as to your IT department or vendor so they may help you to take additional precautions based upon your company’s particular needs.
  3. If there was customer data on the missing laptop, contact their account representative, your legal representative, and other necessary personnel at your company so they make take the appropriate actions to inform the customer of the possible breach.
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