A “Self-Destruct” Option to Protect Your Personal Information

It’s bad enough when a laptop is stolen, but the problem becomes exponentially worse if the laptop contains the sensitive information of customers or employees.

If a personal laptop is stolen, the only costs involved are a laptop replacement cost and perhaps a lost productivity cost. However, when a company’s laptop is stolen or misplaced, the costs can quickly escalate to unfathomable numbers.

A data breach like this, in which Social Security numbers or other sensitive bits of information get into the wrong hands, can be extremely expensive for both the company involved and for those whose information was stolen. The Ponemon institute reports the average cost in 2008 for a company to repair a data breach was $6.6 million, or $202/compromised record. They also found that a lost laptop represents a cost of $49,246.

Losing data can be financially devastating for a business, and extremely scary for the consumers who entrusted their private information to that business.

Kill switch technology to baffle ID thieves

Luckily, though, Fujitsu/Willcom is creating a product that could ease a lot of stress for consumers. Reminiscent of old spy movie gadgets, the kill switch product will be able to remotely delete or lock down personal data from a stolen laptop. This way, if a laptop is stolen, the data can’t be accessed.

Without delving too much into technical jargon, the product works by encrypting data saved onto the hard drive and deleting the encryption key whenever a trigger is sent remotely. This means that when the company detects that the laptop is missing, the data can be rendered totally unreadable by a deletion of the encryption key.

The data can even be deleted or locked down if the computer is turned off. This is unique in data security, and it’s a precedent that is warmly accepted. The technology will be rolled out in the Fall, starting in Japan.

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Fewer data breaches mean happier customers

If this kind of software is accepted in the marketplace on a wide scale, consumers will have valid reason to ease their minds of security breaches. If companies could remotely delete or protect data on stolen laptops, consumers would be far less leery of trusting companies with their personal information.

It’s worth imagining how much money simply implementing these identity theft precautions could save. Rather than spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on data breaches, companies would only be spending money on the Fujitsu/Willcom implementation and replacement laptops on an as-needed basis.

Another added benefit is that consumers would be more trusting of companies. Corporate data breaches rose 50% in 2008 (according to the Identity Theft Resource Center 2008 data breach report), so consumers have reason to be leery when sharing confidential information. If the data lock service were implemented more widely, consumers could feel safe that their information is secure.

In a perfect world, consumers would not have to worry about safeguards for their personal information. However, this is not a perfect world, and companies aren’t perfect. There will always be thieves. It is due to solutions like the data lock that consumer information will be secure. Soon enough, the only thing thieves will be stealing will be laptops that don’t load.

It’s all about lowering the incentives for theft while protecting consumer information. That is certainly a cause worth pursuing.



This guest post was contributed by Greg Minton. Greg is a professional writer based in Philadelphia. When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending his time learning about philosophy, psychology and economics.  He can be reached at greg@gregminton.com or through his website at gregminton.com.

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