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How To Protect Your Precious PC Data

Data security has been in the news a lot lately, as a result of some high-profile corporate losses and thefts of laptops, USB flash drives and other data storage equipment. As more users rely on laptops for their main computers, the chances increase that more PCs will be lost, stolen, or damaged. And this means that the potential for data loss or abuse is high and continues to grow.

Actually, even desktops aren't safe. As PCs get smaller and more powerful, their hard drives can be used to store large databases on them -- information that makes them potential targets for theft.

"All the big guys in financial services have been investing heavily in disk encryption for laptops, desktops, and portable devices," says Ralph Figueiredo, a sales manager with Aurora Enterprises and a data security consultant. "They are worried about internal theft of systems from their offices as well." One of his clients in Southern California recently had the CEO's desktop PC stolen from the office, complete with personnel and project records. Two weeks later, disk encryption was deployed on all of the managers' PCs and policies were set up for encrypting USB flash drives.

Clearly, stealing only the CEO's desktop points to an inside theft, but that doesn't change the fact that now is the time for IT managers to protect their corporate PC data. Ideally, this protection should be part of a comprehensive security strategy that includes traditional perimeter defenses such as firewalls and antivirus tools. "Corporations can be tighter than Fort Knox with their firewalls, but [they] don't consider how easy it is for someone to walk into their office, lift a machine, and walk out the front door," said Figueiredo.

Fortunately, there are a wide array of encryption and security tools that can mitigate this potential disaster, including some free or low-cost solutions.

A recent CSI/FBI survey of IT administrators has found that 46% of the respondents had to deal with stolen laptops in 2006, with the average loss over the year increasing from $19,562 per respondent in 2005 to $30,057 per respondent in 2006.

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