Jun 07 2012

Device Thieves Know No Bounds — Even Ex-Intelligence Agents Are Vulnerable

Ex-MI5 boss has her notebook snatched from right under her nose.

Notebook theft can happen to anybody. Even those in the spy business.

Ex-MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington, who is rumored to be the inspiration behind M, a character in the James Bond series, was recently the victim of notebook theft at Heathrow Airport.

Apparently, she left her notebook PC on a luggage cart, where it was then snatched up by a crafty thief. Although Rimington retired from MI5 (the United Kingdom’s security intelligence agency) in 1996, she had contact information for various people affiliated with the agency, which makes the device’s theft somewhat of a national security concern for the United Kingdom.

As unfortunate as Rimington’s loss is, it offers an important lesson on the significant value of mobile device management. Mobile devices have increasingly become the default form factor for computing, which means the risk of losing devices — and the data on those devices — also has increased.

IT worker Jason Holbert recently outlined five tips for preventing notebook theft in a story for BizTech magazine. Two tips, in particular, would’ve been helpful in Dame Rimington’s case:

Invest in Asset-Recovery Technology

Even if a notebook, desktop or tablet is stolen, companies can still protect their data. Consider a solution such as Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops, which can be loaded onto a device either at the point of sale or by the end user. Once running, LoJack checks in daily with a central server. If the device is reported stolen, the server can send a command to erase the device and report its location by using either the on-board GPS or IP information. Once that information is obtained, Absolute will share it with local law enforcement.

Protect Sensitive Data with BitLocker

The worst part of having a computer stolen is the threat of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. Companies using the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 can avoid that threat by using Windows’ built-in BitLocker technology. In a nutshell, BitLocker can encrypt an entire volume on a given machine’s hard drive, rendering it unreadable without an assigned Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, USB key or personal identification number. This will prevent unauthorized access to the contents of the drive, even if it’s removed and mounted in another PC.

Have you ever been the victim of notebook theft? How did you recover the lost data?