Six Tips to Secure your Laptop Data

As required by section 13402(e)(4) of the HITECH Act, the HHS must post a list of breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting 500 or more individuals. Many of the HIPAA breaches that have been reported to the HHS have been of a result of the theft of laptop computers containing confidential HIPAA protected medical records.

Theft has always been a problem with mankind since the dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, the more advance our information technology gets is the easier it is for thieves to carry out their dirty work without being detected or caught.

That is why it is useful for you to consider laptop computer security and to protect the medical data on your laptop especially if it is confidential or carries electronic records that could be HIPAA privacy issue if let out in the publics eye. So without further ado, "The six best tips to secure your laptop data."

1. Contact your IT department
Assuming that your data is too valuable to be lost or stolen, I can assume that 50-60% of those who are looking to secure their data has company information on it. In such a case, the best and first thing you should do is contact the IT department. Explain to them your situation and ask them for some safeguards you can take. Generally speaking they will have the best tools to help you.

Now if your company does not have an IT department, or they just don’t give a – as to whether your information is stolen, or any other reason, continue reading below.

2. LoJack
This is probably your best option. No doubt you have heard of LoJack before. But I bet you that they deal with a whole host of issues such as cars, trailer trucks and yes computers.

Basically LoJack not only helps with encrypting your data, but also helps finding it if it is stolen. Using patented technology, your computer is located once stolen. Best of all, LoJack is installed in the BIOS, so even if the computer is hacked or the hard drive is wiped clean, the program is sill installed and can still be used to locate a stolen or lost system.

3. GPS Module
This option is best if combined with another (such as encryption). This does call for a little knowledge involving technology but is pretty straight forward. Basically you will need to buy a third party GPS module and install it in the computer. Generally newer laptops/netbooks have unused ports that are great for this.

Once the unit has been installed you can then configure it that it will activate each time the computer is turned on. Thus you can pinpoint the location of your computer anywhere around the world within five minutes.

4. O.S. Based Encryption
If you have serious needs then you might want to consider getting an operating system that offers some serious forms of encryption. Microsoft XP Pro, Vista Business and Ultimate all offer this feature and are secure to the point that many government officials have problems breaking the 128-bit and 256-bit encryption.

It might mean you will have to spend a little more money to upgrade your OS (if you do not have any of the ones listed) or just activating the feature if you do have the O.S.

Certain Linux distros as well as Apple’s Mac OS offer their version of encryption so even if you’re not a fan of Redmond, you can still be covered.

5. Third Part Encryption
This option is best combined with another option such as LoJack or GPS mainly because you want to be able to retrieve your lost data and not just protect it from the hands of prying hands and eyes.

There are numerous third party sources that offer industry grade encryption for hard drives as well as networked drives. Generally the price goes up depending on the features you’re after. But you can be sure that this is one of the better options and most have had clean track records involving customers.

A quick Google of "hard drive encryption software" will bring up numerous companies that offer solutions for this problem. Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each.

6. USB Key
This should only be used if you have serious issues with data theft and it is near life or death. Basically this option requires that a flash drive with a “key” be inserted into the computer for it to turn on or be useable.

This is one of the cheapest options as all you need is a $5-$10 flash drive and the loaded software for the flash drive to work. Once the program is installed on the computer, the computer will not work unless the flash drive is detected.

The only drawback to this option is if you loose the flash drive, you’re left in the cold unless you have recovery options or a backup drive.