Magazine article Strategic Finance

Securing the Hardware

Magazine article Strategic Finance

Securing the Hardware

Article excerpt

A STOLEN LAPTOP might turn out to be no more than an expensive annoyance, or it might create a credible threat to national security. A lot depends on what's on it. Sometimes even the loss of computer parts, say, hard-drives from a research laboratory, can create significant panic. So what can a company or agency do to secure its computing hardware?

It's certainly not getting any easier. The targets are getting smaller and lighter. Even PDAs, with their increased computing and network capacities, can be a significant loss depending on what they are loaded with and what they're connected to. And hardware can even be heisted "virtually" without any need for screwdrivers or bags. A back-door entry over a network can empty a hard drive just as efficiently as if it were pried out of the desktop or server. More so maybe, because without the broken glass or opened locks, you might not even notice the loss for a while.

One way to approach the problem of hardware security is to examine the methods that are currently working for the bad guys and fix those first. For this, the Brigadoon Software 1st Annual Computer Theft Survey is a good place to start. Brigadoon is a New York software developer that has a Lo-Jack-type of solution to protect PCs, PDAs, and Macintosh computers. (See Tools of the Trade, page 55.)

Terrance L. Kawles, president of Brigadoon Software, says the survey "fills a void in the collective body of knowledge of computer security." It's the first survey dealing with the specific issues of the theft of computing devices. Kawles explains, "It was designed to be international in scope and covers all issues surrounding the theft of computing devices in great detail." (The 27-page report is available at

The survey is based on the responses of 676 participants in the following general categories: individuals, corporations, students, academics, and military/government. About half were from North America, 25.1% from Europe, and the remainder from the Pacific Rim, Africa, South America, Asia, Central America, and the Middle East.

The Numbers

In response to the question "How many times has your organization been the victim of computing device(s) theft in the last 12 months?" almost half (44.5%) said they had been victimized. Of the devices stolen, laptops were the most popular (48%), then desktops (26.7%). PDAs (13.3%), Tablet PCs (4%), and Internet-related mobile phones (2.7%) rounded out the list. Unfortunately, 99% of the respondents victimized said the thief was never caught--a very disturbing number when you also consider the fact that 88% of the respondents didn't encrypt the proprietary data on their stolen devices.

The answer to the question "When did the theft occur? …

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