Hard Drive Encryption: Armed Gang Robs Peruvian Starbucks, 20 Laptops Stolen.

Getting your laptop stolen is lamentable (I was going to use another word starting with an “s,” and this is the closest, non-objectionable word I could find).  Getting it stolen from a coffee shop while you’re not around is even more lamentable: not only are you out of a computer, there’s always the niggling “how could I have been so stupid” thought in the back of your mind.

And then, there is the cluster-lamentableness that is the following story: an armed gang of five busts into a coffee shop and steals 20 laptops, 30 cell phones, and the till.  From a data security standpoint, this just goes on to show that data security is not just about using drive encryption software (like AlertBoot) or installing antivirus software.  It’s also about having the appropriate backups in place.

San Isidro, Peru

The robbery took place in Peru, land of the Inca Kola, el sabor de Peru (the taste of Peru.  I’ve never had the chance to try it, but some have likened it to another South American soda: Guarana.  It’s so sweet you can feel your teeth falling on the spot).

This incident, though, involves a more quotidian American staple: Starbucks.  Around 8:30 pm on March 22, five unmasked, armed men busted into a Starbucks and stole valuables from patrons and the store (and employees, I assume).  Once outside, they also broke into cars (the thieves also wrangled car keys), and stole some more.  It doesn’t sound like any vehicles were taken, which is plenty weird.

Two customers, possibly students, were struck because they “resisted giving up their laptops.”  I like to think it was because the laptops contained their research papers, and not because they were just upset about losing their laptops.  I mean, it’s kinda hard to be stupid without a really compelling reason when there’s a gun pointed at your face.  Losing a year worth of work is compelling enough, I’d say.

This is not the first armed robbery involving Starbucks in Peru.  There was one on February 22 as well.

Data Security: Backups

I generally deal with one particular aspect of data security on this site: preventing data leakage.  Data leakage can result in ID theft, financial fraud, etc., something that has attracted a lot of attention in the last 5 years or so, and has created a multi-billion dollar market (not including the illegal one).  To prevent data leakage following a laptop theft, I recommend the use of encryption software. (It’s not just me; most security professionals will do so as well.)

However, the loss of data itself also has its own repercussions and requires another form of data security as well: preventing data loss.  For example, stories in the media abound where students, professors, and researchers beseech the return of their stolen laptops, external drives, and other devices that hold years’ worth of research.  Just return the data, they plead; you can keep the laptop.  No charges pressed!  Usually, such appeals are to no avail (I think I recall one instance where the contents of a stolen laptop were returned to a person via multiple DVDs).

What can I say?  People who steal generally don’t return stuff unless they think there’s a good chance they’ll get caught.

If you use a computer, and you’re dealing with important data — be it sensitive or otherwise — it behooves you to make sure it’s protected against leakage as well as loss.

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