Is Your Data Safe if Your Computer is Stolen?

Many people would rather not think of a situation where they are the victim of theft.  Unfortunately lack of preparation for such situations can be disastrous. If the stolen item is a computer, there can be a chain reaction of thefts including your identity.

Consider all of the various pieces of information that is often stored on a home or business computer:
•    Bank names and possibly account numbers
•    Home or business addresses and phone numbers
•    Multiple contact names and addresses
•    Email information
•    PayPal information
•    Shopping or credit card account information
•    Family names and identities
•    Upcoming trips
•    Business proposals, contracts, legal agreements
•    Financial transactions including purchases and sales

With this type of information thieves can do much harm to you, your business, or your family and friends.  If a thief knows when you will be out of town next, your home could be burglarized.  If a thief learns your business contracts, they can be cloned and manipulated.  And if a thief learns of virtually any account information, your identity can be stolen.

If your computer is password protected, that can prevent additional theft, correct?  Not necessarily.  Thieves can be very savvy when it comes to hacking a password, or they may know how to access the computer through some back-door techniques that are designed to help users who forget passwords.  Once a thief is able to get the device, the thief can access any data on it, with only a few minutes’ worth of effort.

Note that this not only applies to PC’s and laptops, but this also can happen with cell phones, smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices that hold your information.

Businesses and individuals can take steps to prevent theft as much as possible.  Make sure your laptop is always stored in a secured place.  Desktop PC’s should have a cable lock – much like a bicycle cable lock – to make it more difficult to remove.  And keeping an off-site backup is always a great idea.  There are many internet-based services available that can automatically back up your key data so that you will have access to it in the event of theft or system failure.

There are also companies available who do specialized encryption services.  Small businesses may be interested in utilizing these types of services because the encryption happens transparently with minimal work disruption and adds a more complex layer of security in the event of theft.  The thieves will have to go through substantial effort to crack the custom encryption, which can prevent access to business data.

Another option is removable hard drives.  By removing the hard drive from the device and storing it in a safe or lock box, there is less likelihood that your data or identity can be stolen.  However this can be a bit inconvenient for some people.

With identity theft on the rise, it is very important to take these crimes seriously and do whatever you can to protect your computers, your business, and your identity from thieves.  Additionally, it’s a great idea to back up your files using an online backup service to you will always have a copy of your files, even if your computer is stolen.

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