Lesson learned in laptop theft

Implement these planning tips to recover quickly from the theft of laptops

On a recent Monday morning, TechRepublic employees arrived at work to find that more than two dozen laptops had been ripped from their docking stations and stolen over the weekend. TechRepublic’s IT staff was on the job soon after the burglary was discovered on Sunday evening. There were enough spare machines to outfit everyone with at least a basic replacement, and layoffs over the last 18 months at CNET, TechRepublic’s parent company, had left a surplus of laptops in the IT department.

Fortunately, Ted Laun, of CNET Louisville’s IT staff, had considered this type of incident when he was setting up Altiris, TechRepublic’s desktop-imaging application.

 “What if I need to image a bunch of machines quickly?” was the question Laun considered early on. Thanks in part to that foresight, the IT team was able to get basic images on all the replacement machines by midafternoon on Monday.

During the next few days, the IT department handled only a few requests as new problems popped up. They had to scrounge up power cords for some employees whose cords had been stolen. The help desk techs also reinstalled applications that weren’t included in the Altiris image.

Each employee has access to server space for backups, and those who followed the procedures lost little, if any, data. Any TechRepublic and Builder.com articles in production as part of the content management system were also safe.

Assessing your office’s physical security
Our offices are secured by password-coded locks, but the thieves were able to bypass that security device. Although a few employees had been taking their laptops home because of security concerns, we learned the hard way that our security measures were inadequate.

In a recent article, Becky Roberts wrote that IT staff concerned with the physical security of PCs should ask these questions to identify potential vulnerabilities:
  • Are your organization's PCs located in offices that are locked when not occupied?
  • Are your organization's PCs located in an open, shared workspace?
  • Are your organization's PCs easily accessible to the general public?
  • Are your organization's PCs locked to the desks?
  • Do visitors/employees to your company wear ID badges?
  • Are visitors accompanied by employees at all times?
  • Are burglar alarms used on the windows and doors after regular business hours?

What security strategy do you follow?
We want to know what your IT department does to deal with security issues. Do you use locks or products like Computrace to foil thieves? Do you require users to back up to a server regularly to keep their data safe? Do you regularly use software like Altiris to image desktops? Do you have special policies for laptop users? Are you moving to thin clients to keep all data secure on a central server?

Post your suggestions in this discussion or write to us to share your best ideas.

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