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Serious consequences of petty theft of laptop

Origin Storage : 11 August, 2009  (Technical Article)
Origin Storage comments on the theft of a laptop from a woman which held unencrypted data and has still not been recovered despite an arrest having been made
The theft of a laptop from a Lincoln woman - by the woman's boyfriend - may sound like a routine court case but, says Andy Cordial, managing director with Origin Storage, it could be lot more serious.

According to the MD of the storage systems integration specialist, the laptop contained the details of children attending a local playgroup - data, the loss of which could have serious consequences if it leaked on to the Internet.

'The bad news about this case is that even though the 21-year-old boyfriend has been prosecuted for the theft, the laptop has never been recovered,' he said.

'The chairman of the playgroup has told reporters that the personal details on the children was not stored on the notebook, which will come as a tremendous relief for the parents of the kids attending the group,' he added.

But, says Cordial, this relief will be tempered by the fact that the parent's financial information was stored on the laptop and is now `in the wild.'

Even if the hard drive of the notebook is reformatted, the data can still be retrieved by anyone with technical knowledge, he explained.

Our own observations at Origin Storage about stolen laptops, he went on to say, is that most thieves only attempt a cursory deletion of documents on the desktop before `fencing' it on.

More than anything, this sad petty theft case highlights the need for data to be encrypted on a laptop owned by almost anyone, he noted.

'The cost of a hard drive that encrypts data on-the-fly has fallen significantly in recent times, so there really isn't any excuse for not buying an encrypting hard drive,' he said.

'Just imagine what would have happened if the women had stored her employer's client financial details on the laptop. Now there's a potential lesson for any IT manager,' he added.

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