You don't have a computer so you don't have to worry about your personal information being stolen, right?
WRONG! Your home computer may divulge your personal information to bad guys but banks, retailers, health providers, and even the government may inadvertently reveal information about you. Anyone interested in stealing identity information is most interested in large blocks of information that is available at large organizations.
You may recall news stories in the recent past about large organizations that have had data breaches. The same ridiculous story about employees who had laptops stolen that contained personal information seems to be in the news every few weeks. Another source of data breach is a hacker that penetrates the large organization's network. Most upper management is very concerned about their organization's computer security but there are a few individuals more interested in their golf dates.
Even though Microsoft Vista may not have very good reviews, there is one feature that should be mandatory at any organization that stores private data. The business version of Vista allows users to encrypt information. A password is required to extract or “see” the information. Proper encryption algorithms are almost impossible to break with today's technology. Nothing is 100% secure but encryption makes it almost impossible to see the information on a stolen laptop.
A few laptop manufacturers allow owners to set passwords that are impossible to disable. As soon as the laptop starts to boot up, there is a prompt for the password. If you don't know the password, the computer is locked until the manufacturer resets the password. This technology was popular about ten years ago but there were too many legitimate laptop owners who forgot their passwords. Passwords that can not be easily cleared is only available on a select few laptops. Most computer manufacturers do provide owner set passwords early in the boot up cycle but this method can be easily defeated.
Wouldn't it be nice to have technology that would make it not profitable to steal laptops? If you don't have the key, the laptop won't function.
Networks are very convenient to allow data traffic but the bad guys are always looking for new ways to penetrate corporate or government security.
Technology is always improving and making it more difficult for hackers.
Hackers are always getting better too. It's just like the arms race from a few decades ago. Build a new weapon, build a new defense.
What can you do to protect yourself? Consumers need to demand that organizations storing private information must be serious about security.
One person with a concern about security might not make a difference but enough concerned people will force changes at organizations with lax security.