Tech Tip: What to Do Before You Go to Starbucks

So you’re in the car on the way home from Starbucks, basking in the glow of consuming your triple-shot, low-foam, extra-hot pumpkin spice latte, when you suddenly realize your laptop has gone missing. You drive back like the caffeinated lunatic you are, only to discover that no one has turned it in. What do you do?

That depends on what precautions you have — or haven’t — taken.

If you’ve properly encrypted your data, password-protected access to your device and shut down and logged off all key applications, you’ve got a bit more time to respond.

But the first thing to do, whether or not you’ve taken those precautionary measures, is to notify your IT department or provider that you’ve lost your device. That will allow personnel to change passwords and secure entry points to applications and data that a thief may try to access via your unprotected laptop.

Your IT support staff can also remotely wipe your device to make sure that no one will be able to gain access to the data stored on your computer — which is also why it’s critical to back up your data on a daily basis.

Next, change all the passwords to every website you log in to, starting with any sites that contain company or financial data, such as your bank account. If your laptop contained medical records, financial information or other sensitive data (social security numbers, birthdays, etc.), then you need to contact a qualified attorney to understand what you may be legally required to do to notify individuals who may be affected.

Quite simply, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure your data is encrypted and backed up, install remote monitoring software on all your mobile devices, use a pin-code lock or require a password to access a device after 10 minutes of inactivity and get into the habit of logging out of websites when you’re done using them.

Alan Edwards, CISM, is chief information officer at Computerware, Inc., in Vienna, Virginia.


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