Death by Laptop

For those of us enjoying the benefits of laptops and mobile storage gadgets, it’s easy to overlook the risks. But as a recent article in Law Technology News (“Death by Laptop”, May 8th, 2006) points out, the risks are high, and the consequences of ignoring them rather scary. They cite two headline grabbing incidents to drive the point home:

  • Thief nabs backup data on 365,000 patients from a Providence Health Systems employee’s car
  • Laptop stolen from employee of Fidelity Investments with data on 196,000 Hewlett Packard workers

Which got me thinking about the risks of keeping highly confidential contracts and agreements on a personal laptop, and the consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. For lawyers working on confidential M&A deals, the fallout could be disastrous. For government contracts it’s a recipe for public scandal. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up other scary scenarios.

It does, however, bring into focus one of the benefits of web-based systems, where your confidential data lives on a server, safely out of range of the average laptop thief. You can still use your laptop to login and do your work, but if you happen to leave it in a taxi, or under the bar, your worst case scenario is the price of a new machine. Much better than waking up the next day to find yourself as front-page news.

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