Householders may hand burglars their financial details on unprotected laptops, reports AA

Tablets and laptops are among the most common items to be snatched by home intruders according to AA Home Insurance who are encouraging households throughout Ireland to think carefully about how and what they store on their pcs, especially details like PIN numbers and bank accounts.

“While theft of unencrypted computers  from business premises have hit the headlines recently it’s also important to think about what could happen if your own personal laptop, tablet or Smartphone fell into the wrong hands.”  Says Conor Faughnan, Director of Policy, AA Ireland. 

“Chances are thieves will be after the hardware itself but your house burglary could get much worse if you are handing them your financial details as well.  There’s a real risk that your email account, bank account and other frequently logged into sites could be hacked into so it’s best to implement a few countermeasures and back up your data regularly.  It’s also advisable to make sure your pc is listed in your home contents insurance. ”

Worrying practices

Of a sample of 18,700 people polled by AA Home Insurance during February of this year, 10% of participants rather worryingly said they regularly store pin codes and passwords on their laptops.  A figure which the poll reveals is slightly higher among men (11%) than women (8%).

Following this, 16% said they often store information relating to their financial accounts on their pc, something that men yet again are more inclined to do the poll results suggests.  Almost one in five men indicated they keep data of this nature on their pcs.  Even worst still it would appear are the Over 65s. Of the 1,500 people aged 65 plus polled by AA Home Insurance, a quarter said they had information pertaining to their personal finance stored on their home computer. 

In addition, 55% of those polled said they seldom if ever remove saved passwords from their browsers, with many indicating they were unaware of the importance of doing so.  The AA also reports that a comment echoed right throughout the individual comments section of their poll was that lack of knowledge rather than complacency was the reason they are falling down on laptop security and potentially exposing themselves to fraud and identity theft.

60% seldom if ever back up

Less seriously AA Home Insurance is also reminding households to back up their photos, music and important documents regularly following further poll statistics which indicate that about 60% of people rarely if ever back up their data onto external devices or online.  While eclipsing their male counterparts in the security stakes women emerged as less disciplined overall when it comes to backing up their material.

“You can of course insure your laptop, the AA offers cover of up to €3000 for example, but quite often in our experience as insurers this is limited comfort to those who have lost sentimental items such as photos or a music collection they’ve built up over a few years.” Says Faughnan. 

AA tips on personal laptop protection:

PHYSICAL SECURITY

Keep your laptop out of sight, away from windows and doors.  Or if you leave it in the open, at least consider a physical laptop cable lock.  It’s also a good idea to mark your laptop with your identity. Special pens are available with ink that only shows up under ultraviolet light. However more obvious markings can make for a stronger deterrent.

PASSWORDS

Set your own user account on your pc and disable the Guest account.  Use a log-on password and ensure it’s tough to crack.  It’s good practice to use 8-alphanumeric characters.  Having one capital letter and one number within your password makes the password about four times stronger. Don’t make it obvious and avoid using passwords which contain adjacent keys e.g. asdf1234 or passwords that are nouns with a number on the end e.g. Password1; Tuesday12.  Also don’t use birthdays or the names of family members.  Don’t use the same password and username combination for your  laptop as for websites. Use an online password manager to keep track of your different accounts.  The following site gives a list of the 25 worst passwords of 2011 http://mashable.com/2011/11/17/worst-internet-passwords/

PROTECTING YOUR DATA

Never store business data on a laptop unless it is encrypted.  And try to avoid storing sensitive personal data such as financial records.  However if this is not an option, be sure to use password protection and encryption.  It is easy to save documents, spreadsheets and so on with a password – you can select this option when you SAVE.

BACK UP YOUR DATA

Online backups and high capacity flash drives make this easier than ever. If you back up to a removable media, do it regularly (say monthly) and then keep it in a safe place, away from your laptop. Online backups have become easy to use, cheap (and in some cases free), and are usually automatic – which means you don’t forget to do them.

TRACKING YOUR LAPTOP

If the information on your laptop is particularly sensitive, then you might like to consider installing tracking software. This software hides in the background, and uses WiFi or GPS to locate and report on your laptop. It can help you locate a lost laptop, or remotely wipe the laptop if it is stolen.

The AA invites readers to share their thoughts on the topic of laptop security on their blog www.blog.aaireland.ie

 

Fig. 1 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following? (Based on 18,779 responses)

ALL RESPONDENTS:

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.5% 29.6% 20.2% 14.3% 25.4% 7.0%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 4.9% 29.3% 17.5% 12.8% 28.1% 7.5%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.5% 8.6% 6.6% 7.5% 69.2% 6.6%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 7.8% 20.9% 12.0% 12.7% 30.5% 16.1%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 3.1% 3.9% 4.6% 4.5% 71.7% 12.3%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 2.7% 13.2% 8.1% 9.7% 58.0% 8.2%

Fig. 2 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

FEMALE PARTICIPANTS ONLY (Based on 7,401 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 1.9% 25.9% 20.9% 15.7% 27.3% 8.3%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 3.3% 26.4% 18.0% 14.1% 28.6% 9.6%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.1% 7.2% 6.4% 7.2% 71.0% 7.1%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 5.8% 18.1% 11.1% 12.5% 33.8% 18.7%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 2.9% 3.3% 3.8% 3.9% 73.8% 12.3%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 1.9% 10.6% 8.1% 9.1% 61.1% 9.3%

Fig. 3 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

MALE PARTICIPANTS ONLY (Based on 11,416 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 4.4% 31.8% 19.9% 13.3% 24.4% 6.2%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 5.9% 31.0% 17.2% 12.0% 27.8% 6.1%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.7% 9.5% 6.8% 7.7% 68.1% 6.3%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 9.1% 22.8% 12.6% 12.8% 28.4% 14.4%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 3.2% 4.2% 5.0% 5.0% 70.5% 12.2%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 3.2% 15.0% 8.2% 10.1% 56.0% 7.5%

Fig. 4 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED BETWEEN 17-24 YEARS ONLY (Based on 454 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.3% 28.3% 20.5% 15.9% 28.9% 3.1%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 5.6% 32.4% 17.6% 14.2% 26.2% 4.0%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 2.9% 8.9% 8.0% 8.9% 67.6% 3.8%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 10.8% 25.0% 14.4% 13.7% 27.2% 8.8%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 4.7% 5.1% 6.0% 4.9% 73.3% 6.0%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 1.1% 4.9% 8.7% 9.3% 68.9% 7.1%

Fig 5. Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED BETWEEN 25 to 35 YEAR OLDS only (Based on 3890 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.2% 29.8% 21.7% 16.5% 24.7% 4.3%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 4.1% 28.4% 20.2% 14.9% 26.8% 5.6%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.8% 6.7% 7.1% 8.4% 71.1% 5.0%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 10.6% 24.5% 13.8% 13.4% 26.4% 11.3%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 3.6% 3.4% 4.5% 5.2% 74.5% 8.8%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 1.8% 7.9% 8.6% 10.8% 63.7% 7.3%

Fig. 6 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED BETWEEN 36 TO 45 YEARS only (Based on 5,202 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.3% 31.2% 22.2% 14.8% 23.1% 5.3%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 4.1% 29.0% 19.7% 13.7% 26.7% 6.9%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.6% 8.6% 7.4% 8.2% 67.6% 6.6%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 8.1% 22.6% 13.4% 13.5% 27.9% 14.4%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 3.3% 4.5% 4.6% 4.8% 71.8% 10.9%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 2.3% 12.5% 9.2% 10.7% 57.5% 7.7%

Fig. 7 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED BETWEEN 46 TO 55 YEARS only (Based on 4,745 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.7% 29.7% 19.4% 12.9% 27.0% 7.3%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 5.2% 29.8% 16.0% 11.4% 30.3% 7.4%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.3% 8.7% 6.4% 6.9% 70.6% 6.1%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 8.0% 20.8% 10.5% 12.8% 31.5% 16.3%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 2.8% 3.8% 5.0% 4.3% 72.1% 12.0%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 3.0% 14.3% 7.7% 9.4% 58.1% 7.5%

Fig. 7 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED BETWEEN 56 TO 65 YEARS only (Based on 2,910 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.7% 28.0% 17.9% 13.6% 25.8% 10.9%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 6.2% 29.2% 14.8% 11.3% 28.7% 9.7%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.2% 10.4% 6.1% 6.3% 67.5% 8.5%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 4.4% 15.7% 10.7% 11.9% 35.6% 21.7%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 2.9% 3.4% 4.6% 4.2% 69.1% 15.8%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 3.4% 17.6% 8.1% 8.2% 52.7% 10.0%

Fig. 8 Laptops and ‘tablet’ computers have become common items taken during burglaries. With your home laptop, computer or ‘tablet’ in mind, how often do you do the following?

Participants AGED 65+ only (Based on 1,531 responses)

  Daily Regularly Seldom Rarely Never Doesn’t apply to me
Back up your photographs/music via online backup service/external device 3.6% 25.5% 16.1% 12.4% 29.7% 12.8%
Back up your important documents via online backup service/external device 6.1% 28.6% 12.7% 12.0% 29.6% 11.0%
Store pin codes and passwords on your laptop 1.5% 9.0% 3.6% 6.1% 69.9% 9.9%
Remove your “saved passwords” from your web browser 3.9% 13.7% 8.6% 8.8% 39.8% 25.1%
Use a laptop locking device (similar to a bicycle lock) 1.9% 3.1% 2.6% 3.2% 67.3% 21.9%
Store information that is related to your financial accounts 4.5% 20.2% 4.9% 8.1% 51.0% 11.2%

 

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