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The Biggest Tech Disasters -- and How to Avoid Them
How to respond: Your response depends on what you have done up front. For about $40 and up per laptop per year, services such as MyLaptopGPS and Absolute Software's Computrace LoJack for Laptops may be able to get the computer back. If you have installed one of these programs, the stolen machine will report its location to the authorities as soon as the thief connects to the Internet. Some services let you remotely wipe all data from the hard drive or will even covertly download files from the stolen laptop for you. If you don't have a tracing program, the best you can do is report the serial number to the police and the manufacturer and hope it winds up at a repair shop.
Preventive measures: In addition to installing tracing software, make sure to encrypt the hard drive. "If the data's encrypted, thieves can't use it, and you'll save yourself notice costs and bad public relations," says Randy Gainer, who deals with many privacy and security cases as a partner in Davis Wright Tremaine, a Seattle law firm. The enterprise edition of the Windows Vista operating system has an encryption feature, BitLocker, built in. Other encryption programs, such as PGP Whole Disk Encryption or Veridis' FileCrypt, can run about $50 to $120 per computer. Other tips: Record your laptops' serial numbers in a handy place. And advise employees to treat a laptop like a wallet. You wouldn't leave your wallet in the car, and you shouldn't leave your laptop there, either.