2 Simple Steps to Prevent Data Loss

By Paul Mah | Posted March 22, 2013

Every once in a while we hear about an employee at some big company who loses a laptop loaded with confidential customer information. A major data loss like that can result in significant financial losses and/or a major reputation hit. For small and mid-sized businesses in particular, a data leak can actually deal a fatal blow to that business.

Fortunately, protecting your company from data leaks is much simpler today, and even a small business can afford the technology that protects data while it's in transit.

While there are many tools and products to help you protect against data loss, this article looks at two affordable ways for small businesses to protect your mobile data.

Encrypt Hard Drives on Laptops

What many small business owners do not realize is that, by itself, the secure-looking password login on laptops offers zero protection against a data leak should your or an employee lose a laptop or have it stolen. Why not?


Because removing a hard disk drive from most laptops circumvents this type of password protection. And all it takes is a screwdriver and about one minute of a thief's time.

Fortunately, it is a fairly straightforward matter to enable full-disk encryption with software such as BitLocker on a Windows PC and FileVault on Mac OS X. For Bitlocker, you'll need either the Enterprise or Ultimate edition for Windows 7, and the Professional or Enterprise edition for Windows 8. Alternatively, you can use open-source alternatives such as TrueCrypt.

Use Self-encrypting USB Flash Drives

Whether small business owners like it or not, employees do bring their work home from time-to-time. The company, through its employees, takes on a huge risk here, given how easily the contents of standard USB flash drives can be accessed if they're misplaced or stolen.

While it is certainly possible to individually encrypt files before placing them onto a USB flash drives, the extra step typically causes staffers to forget or to skip this step when they're in a hurry.

Fortunately, a number of flash drives offer hardware encryption with built-in authentication. On the premium end you'll find IronKey F200 USB flash drive, which comes with an embedded fingerprint reader.

Others, such as the LOK-IT Secure Flash Drive that I previously highlighted on SMB Tech, offer a numeric keypad for authentication. The best part here is the data security guarantee; getting the password wrong a predetermined number of times (usually 10) will erase the encryption key – and turn the encrypted data into gibberish.

The main deterrent to implementing an adequate level of data protection has less to do with the cost and more to do with diligence. With minimal effort, small business owners can render data leaks due to lost or stolen laptops a thing of the past.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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