Lock down your laptops

MCI is learning the hard way that laptops, and other portable devices, that story sensitive information should be carefully controlled and adequately secured. On Monday, News.com published a Reuters' story about an MCI laptop stolen from an employee's car. According to the report, the laptop contained the "names and Social Security numbers of about 16,500 current and former employees of MCI ".

The MCI incident is just one in a string of laptop security leaks. In December, thieves made off with a laptop belonging to the Delta Blood Bank, which contained the personal information of 100,000 blood donors. UCLA's Blood and Platelet Center felt the sting in November 2003 and June 2004, when two laptops containing the combined personal information of 145,000 blood donors were stolen.

Unfortunately these thefts of private laptops pale in comparison to U.S. government laptop losses. A 2002 report from the Justice Department's inspector general reported at least 400 laptop computers were missing or stolen from agencies such as the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and Drug Enforcement Administration.

If you're going to store sensitive information on portable devices, IT departments must take appropriate measure to lock down those machines, such as: using power-on, BIOS passwords, using password-protected user accounts, and encrypting all sensitive data. Above all else, IT departments should train laptop user how not to lose their laptop in the first place. Teach users these five laptop security musts.