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Monthly Broadcast: May 2007
Ken Bowell has been using computers since 1979. He started out with Apple systems, followed by various Macs before moving into Windows in 1993. His first home computer was an IBM PCJr.
You can take it with you: the do’s and don’ts of portable data security.

We love to carry our lives around in these portable pieces of technology. From PDA’s and cell phones to laptops and MP3 players, we need it with us.

The problem with needing it all with us is there’s always someone who thinks they need it more. Theft of our devices can range anywhere from loss of the price of the device to potentially losing our identities to data thieves.

We often carry these items when we travel. Unfortunately, this is when we’re the most vulnerable. While we’re trying to find our airport gate, a restaurant or our hotel, the bad guys are eyeing our gear. The problem is when that stuff is that last thing on our minds.

What can we do to protect ourselves, as well as all that stuff? Here are some travel tips to make sure your gear stays with you:

1) This is the most obvious one, but it surprises me how often people violate this rule: Never let your gear out of your sight. Don’t walk away from your stuff to use the bathroom, get a refill of your soda or buy a muffin for dessert. Pick it up and take it with you. Don’t leave your devices in the hotel room, either.

2) Don’t flash your gear. While you may be proud of that fancy phone, keep it out of sight unless you need to make a call. Likewise, carrying a bag that screams “Laptop Enclosed! Steal Me!” is a bad idea. There are plenty of bags out there that are designed to hold a computer without looking like they do.

3) Don’t rely on a cable lock to stop a thief. Anyone with a medium-sized set of cable cutters can make short work of those things. It doesn’t matter how thick the cable is, cutting it won’t be too hard. Seriously, some guys really carry cutters around just for that purpose. Of course, an alarmed device can attract attention before the deed is finished, but that won’t help in a hotel room or rental car with no one around.

That being said, those devices will prevent a crime of opportunity. Someone who might normally simply slip your computer under his or her coat and walk away will still be foiled. Just don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

4) Keep copies of all serial numbers from your devices in a safe place. While it won’t help find your gear, it will help identify it if it is.

5) Consider an online tracking service. There are several companies out there that offer what amounts to “Lojack” for your computer. The general idea is, when your computer is stolen, they’ll watch for it to go online and track the location. If you travel a lot and buy your own gear, this may not be a bad idea.

6) Use a security tag. Without this device plugged into your system, it won’t let anyone in. If the thief doesn’t have it, your data is useless. Just don’t lose your tag or keep it in the same bag as your gear.

7) Carry a thumb drive or similar storage device with backups of your important data. While it won’t prevent your gear from being stolen, at least your all-important sales presentation won’t be lost.

These tips will help minimize the chance you’ll lose your devices or the data on them. However, should someone make off with one of them, be sure to file a police report immediately. Give them the serial numbers of all stolen devices so they can track them through local pawnbrokers. Check auction sites like E-Bay to see if your gear shows up there.

Ken Bowell is currently a video editor for ESPN. Since 1997, he has performed various production tasks for shows like Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, NFL Live and ESPNews. He has been working in television for nearly 15 years at both the local and network level.

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