CyberScout

When Your Devices Don’t Make It Home for the Holidays

When Your Devices Don’t Make It Home for the Holidays

The quantity of things that Americans leave at TSA checkpoints is staggering.

Last year alone, the TSA collected nearly $1 million worth of coins and bills forgotten by travelers at security checkpoints. At the Los Angeles International Airport in a singlemonth in 2015, the TSA found 154 laptops, 98 cell phones, 229 driver’s licenses, 18 iPads, and 32 wallets—3,705 items in all, according to the LA Times.

And each year, this figure rises.

So imagine how many laptops will be lost this year if a study released in 2008 by Ponemon Institute found that, all told, some 637,000 laptops were lost or forgotten at U.S. airports that year. The same survey revealed that about 53 percent of the lost laptops contained confidential company information, and 65 percent of the owners had taken no steps to protect it.

The millions of Americans who will be flying home for the holiday season—and the thousands of businesses whose employees will be among them—should take these figures to heart. Many thousands of holiday travelers will lose their laptops in the holiday travel shuffle. And if you think that because your laptop is password protected, your information is safe, think again.

Password-protected laptops create a false sense of security

According to our own research, businesses overwhelmingly feel that standard security precautions—like lockscreen passwords—create a false sense of security for laptop and mobile users. Perhaps this is because there are a variety of easy ways to hack into a password-protected device. Just ask the internet.

Lost and stolen laptops are one of the ways data is most easily compromised

Eighty percent of information theft is due to lost or stolen laptops and other equipment. Additionally, about 50 percent of network intrusions are performed with credentials gathered from lost or stolen devices.

Your laptop = the keys to the kingdom

The more information we store in the cloud, the more we need to secure the endpoints. Especially since user names and passwords are stored in the browser, a hacked laptop could mean giving away the keys to the figurative kingdom—all of your online accounts set to “remember you,” easy access to email and bank accounts. One look at your browser history and the new owner of your recently departed laptop will have a lot more information than you’d like.

Your company is only as strong as its weakest link

In June, 2016, thousands of NFL players’ medical records were put at risk when a laptop was stolen. The laptop was password-protected but not encrypted. And the reality is that most companies do not ensure their laptops are encrypted until a breach like this takes place.

Many employees of insurance and financial services companies are obligated to leverage third-party protection to the highest possible standard, given the sensitive nature of the data to which they have access, but small firms don't have an IT department—or someone overseeing their device security. When they have data breaches, the ramifications are serious. For example, if an accountant’s unencrypted laptop were lost or stolen, tax returns, Social Security numbers and private information could be compromised, with disastrous consequences.

Encryption to all, and to all a good night

So how can individuals and SMBs answer this threat? A starting point is understanding encryption—a foundational element of cybersecurity. While sophisticated in use, encryption as a service is a cost-efficient and highly effective way to make sure that your valuable personal or business information stays safe—even if your devices don’t make it home for the holidays.

About Ebba Blitz   |     |  

Ebba Blitz, the CEO of Alertsec, specializes in fast deployment of IT security. Blitz has also covered the tech sector as a journalist for more than 20 years and has moderated events for some of the largest companies in the U.S. and Sweden, including Microsoft, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson and more.