Laptop computers make easy targets for thieves -- they're easy to steal and easy to sell.
The computers themselves make the heist worthwhile, but increasingly, it is what's on the hard drive that's potentially much more valuable -- and more dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands. A leading expert is calling for new security features for laptops, including GPS tracking technology.
"The unsecured laptop computer is easily stolen and a goldmine for identity thieves," said Robert Siciliano, president of IDTheftSecurity.com. "Owners indiscriminately store personal data of all kinds on them. The portable computer is the thief's fantasy, but effective, and inexpensive, security exists."
Siciliano said anyone who owns a laptop computer should install on it affordable safeguards such as GPS tracking, encryption technology, and systems to remotely retrieve and delete data.
News of large organizations hemorrhaging laptop computers continued to surface in November.
The Internal Revenue Service lost 478 laptop computers between 2002 and November 2006. An unspecified number were lost to thieves. On Nov. 16, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported the loss of a laptop that houses the Social Security numbers of possibly 43,000 current and former employees of T-Mobile USA Inc.
"The recent statistics speak for themselves, and the responsible thing to do is invest in GPS technology to remove data and recover a lost or stolen machine," said Dan Yost, chief technology officer at MyLaptopGPS, a firm whose product tracks the whereabouts of misplaced and stolen laptops by way of Internet-based GPS.
MyLaptopGPS offers a security software that, once loaded on a laptop, can help track the machine and retrieve sensitive information once it's reported stolen.
According to MyLaptopGPS, as soon as the thief connects to the Internet, the GPS system locates the machine and removes all important files, right under the thief's nose, returning the files to the owner by way of a fully-encrypted transfer. The service costs about $10 a month.