How would your company reward the return of a “lost” laptop?

Last Friday, ArsTechnica noted that a New Zealand brewing company is offering a lifetime reward for the return of a lost laptop.

The reward? One 12-pack of their beer per month, for life.

Seems a little on the cheap side to me, which was the take the ArsTechnica writer had on it.

What would your company do to get a lost laptop back?

I’d recommend a new laptop for the lost laptop’s safe return with intact data, with an agreement not to publicize or release anything found on the laptop.

Does this reward the (potential) thief?

Perhaps, but it also does these things:

  • Gets your machine back, along with the stuff you obviously didn’t have backed up (hint, hint)
  • Gets your data out of circulation.
  • Gives the thief a chance to do far less damage to your company while arriving at the same goal (getting the laptop, even if the next step is to sell it).

On the other hand, if your laptop is being properly taken care of by your technology staff, then who cares? Let it go and forget the 12 pack for life.

What is “properly taken care of” for a machine that you’re willing to spend $180 a year on for the next, say 50 years?

  • Data is regularly backed up, automatically, when the laptop connects to the net or to the corporate network. This doesn’t require an explicit action on the part of the user and cannot be disabled by them.
  • Data on the drive is encrypted with a strong password scheme, using a password that changes weekly. This renders the data useless to anyone who finds it, unless they have an awful lot of time on their hands to try and crack the encryption. This also reduces the laptop to being an easily replaceable commodity item, not something that will get your CEO on CNN and your reward offering on ArsTechnica.
  • Field staff is trained on common laptop theft prevention techniques, is provided with hardware protection for “grab it and run” thefts, and enforcement of data protection tool usage is

Common sense stuff, right? If only common sense were a little bit more, uh, common.

Let the laptop go and have a little chat about security with company assets with the person who lost it.

If your technology staff isn’t taking care of your valuable data assets like this, I suggest that you get them moving on it before you end up on CNN.

Small businesses – the same can be said for your desktop data at the office. What if your computers were stolen tonight? Would you be out of business tomorrow?