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There's a Thief on Your Campus

Author: Ed Gallin

What would happen if your laptop computer were stolen? What would this cost you in time, money and frustration let alone loss of your confidential information such as you social security number, bank accounts, or passwords? Don’t think it can’t happen to you. It happens on campuses everyone day in and day out. By the time you finish this article someone will have had some type of equipment stolen.

Each year millions of laptops, desktop computers, digital projectors and flat-screen monitors are stolen. Unfortunately, not only is the equipment stolen, but valuable data is stolen.

Often the data is extremely confidential and critical to the successful operations of an organization. When it makes its way into the hands of a criminal this can cause irreversible damage. This problem is not limited to students. It impacts faculty as well.

In one recent incident in Berkeley, California a computer with data from tens of thousands of students was stolen. Confidential information slipped into the hands of an unknown assailant that most people thought was protected. It took those impacted hundreds of hours each to protect themselves. Unfortunately, as most people realize who have been the victims of identity theft, once your information is stolen, you are never completely protected.

Sadly, only a small percentage of equipment is ever recovered. Although the financial loss of the equipment can be high, the loss of data can be detrimental.

“The theft of a laptop results in an average financial loss of $89,000; only a small percentage of the sum actually relates to the hardware cost.”
Source: 2002 Computer Security Institute/FBI Computer Crime & Security Survey.

Currently, there is a great deal of emphasis on network security while little, if any attention is placed on securing the equipment itself. Incredible amounts of money are spent on IT issues and yet, a common method for stealing data is through what is known as Smash and Grab.

Smash and Grab is exactly as it sounds. A thief simply breaks a door, window or panel to steal equipment. Not only do you have the loss of equipment, you have additional repair costs to whatever else was damaged.

While IT staff struggle with keeping cyber crooks away from your data…the old fashioned thief is walking away with your projectors, plasma screens, notebooks and other stuff that you need to run your organization.

How much would lost equipment really cost you? Not only in hardware costs, but in data costs. The sad truth is, many people are of the belief that this type of theft will happen to someone else but not to them.

To determine how secure your equipment and information is consider the following questions.

-Do you have security measures in place?

-When is the last time you reviewed security measures?

-Do you know what your personal and organizational risk factor is if your computer were stolen or lost?

-What would happen if you were suddenly without your laptop?

-What key information could a criminal access?

-What would happen if the wrong person had access to the information on your laptop?

-How would your staff/students/clients/customers be impacted by a security breach?

-Are your systems as secure as they could be?

-What would a system loss cost you in down time, credibility, embarrassment and security?

The best security is to educate faculty, students and maintenance on simple measure they can each take to reduce the risk of losing equipment. For students, you may have to repeatedly inform through brochures, newsletter articles, demonstrations and by posting information on bulletin boards.
A simple wrist or belt device will reduce the risk of someone snatching your items as well as you inadvertently forgetting them. Items like cell phones, PDAs and in many cases, laptops. The cost is minimal for this kind of protection.
For equipment that stays in one location, lockdown devices are recommended. You can also use no-cut cables for anything that is moved from location to location.
Other recommendations include tracking devices, labeling equipment, and keeping records of security numbers.
The fact is, computer and equipment theft is on the rise everyday. It is a problem that is not going away. Although it may never be eliminated, you can reduce your chances of being the next victim. By taking a few simple to apply steps before something happens, you prevent yourself from a problem that can impact you for months or years to come.

About the author:

Ed Gallin, CEO of KSL Security, is a recognized expert in desktop security and computer protection. KSL Security, based out of Waltham, MA., specializes in loss prevention for computer systems, AV equipment and other valuable electronic items. Access the FREE eBook, Theft Prevention Strategies Designed to Save YOU! by visiting

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