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 no one has turned it in. What do you do?

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

First, 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. Those professionals will change passwords and block access to applications and data a thief could gain access to via your unprotected laptop. They can also remotely wipe your device to make sure no one will be able to gain access to the data stored on your computer (which is another reason 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 financial data — such as your bank account — or company data. 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 required to do by law to notify individuals who may be affected.

Quite simply, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure your IT department or provider is encrypting and backing up your data and has installed remote monitoring software on all mobile devices. Devices should require a PIN code or password after 10 minutes of inactivity. Also, you should get in 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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