How Safe are the Laptops Your Employees Use?
The statistics about the importance of laptops and other mobile devices in the workplace are telling.
“In the near future, the number of mobile devices will exceed the world’s population, and by 2017, we expect more than 10 billion connected mobile devices,” said Larry Payne, vice-president, U.S., Cisco, Inc., in an online story about mobility habits.
According to research by Huddle, half of U.S. office workers want to work from anywhere, 49% want access to all of their work documents, and one-fifth want to use their personal laptops, smart phones, and tablets for work.
But the theft of mobile devices is also widespread. According to Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, and every week 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen at airports in the United States.
How can an organization maintain mobile device security and confidential information from getting stolen?
- Risk analysis. A recent $750,000 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) settlement underlined the importance of risk analysis. Cancer Care Group, P.C., a private physician practice in Indiana, suffered a breach of protected health information (PHI) from about 55,000 patients when an employee left his laptop and unencrypted backup media in his car – and it was stolen. An investigation showed that Cancer Care should have conducted an enterprise-wide risk analysis. To understand laptop security needs, inventory all computers to find out where and what sensitive data is stored. Scale down, and keep only what is necessary for business, advises the Federal Trade Commission.
- Mobile device policy. Whether the workplace has a BYOD or CYOD laptop policy, there should be clear guidelines about the removal of hardware and electronic media containing private information. Also, never leave a laptop unattended unless it is locked up. Employees losing laptops and other mobile devices accounted for over one-third of data breaches in the 2012 Human Factor in Data Protection study by Ponemon.
- Device safeguards.Having the most up-to-date mobile security software, web browser, operating system and apps is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats, according to stopthinkconnect.org. Also, use strong passwords, encryption, and anti-theft technology such as remote control solutions.
- Conscientious employees. Provide on-going security training for all employees. A 2014 mobility habits study by Cisco showed that 53% of government agencies require all employees to take regular security training related to mobile devices versus just 13% of private-sector organizations. Practical strategies are key. For example, don’t store unnecessary sensitive data on laptops but when you do, back it up. For device security, never leave a laptop visible in a car, or packed in checked luggage. Use a privacy screen when working on a laptop when travelling.
- Information disposal processes. Implement appropriate information disposal practices. Keep in mind that even though confidential information is deleted from hard drives, it can often be recovered by information thieves. For this reason, all hard drives and e-media that are out-dated, broken down or no longer needed should be securely destroyed. Partner with a reliable information security company that provides hard drive and e-media destruction services.
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