Life is full of little reminders, and the best reminders are of things that we’ve forgotten because we take them for granted. One of those things is physical security. If our offices and homes are safe, then isn’t it a natural assumption that our hotel rooms are safe? Everyone always says that we should lock things up, but who has really been robbed? I’ve traveled around the world at least a few times with my laptop and I’ve never had a problem. But then again, as a native New Yorker I expect the worst from every situation and I don’t trust anyone.
I’m in Cancun for a few days on vacation at the Excellence Playa Mujer, an all inclusive resort. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been robbed. I know so because after my girlfriend’s perfume was stolen I walked around asking everyone I saw if they had been robbed. Literally, everyone I asked has had something stolen, ranging from perfume to sunglasses to Blackberries to laptops. The management talks a good game, “yes sir. I understand that it is a problem. We’re doing everything we can.” And then they do nothing except tell us that they’re not responsible for lost or stolen items.
I believe that we have a right to vacation in a safe environment, but that’s a philosophical argument that can wait for another day. We haven’t been hit too badly because I’m a security freak and insist on locking up or hiding everything. But who would feel a need to hide perfume?
What is this leading up to? The guys that I spoke to that had their laptops and Blackberries stolen are very upset. Neither of them care about the hardware, but both of them are faced with the loss of irreplaceable data. I’ve given several lectures this year (meaning 2007) on PCMagCast and Dell.com about safeguarding laptops. And many people have asked me if the steps that I recommend are necessary. My answer, after what I’ve seen this week, is a resounding yes! Ask yourself, what is the data on my laptop worth? Is it worth the price of a lock, hard drive encryption software and the inconvenience of locking it in a safe? I certainly hope so.
Always keep your laptop in sight when you travel. Never trust anyone to watch it for you. Lock it up with a cable lock when you get where you are going. Put it in the safe when you leave your room. Encrypt the data on the hard drive (at the very least use an operating system level password). The guy here who had his laptop stolen says that his wife’s application to become a US citizen was on his hard drive; it would now be very easy for someone to steal her identity.
And don’t forget to make regular backups. Compromised data is one thing, but lost data is another. Replacing the irreplaceable might actually put you out of business. The first step in protecting data is to physically protect the device.
For 2008, please resolve to be suspicious and protective. If your life and your livelihood are deeply intertwined with a device such as a portable phone, Blackberry, or laptop, then there is no such thing as being over-protective. It’s better to err on the side of caution than merely to err.