2008 hasn't really started any better than 2007 finished - a laptop is stolen from the boot of a car, containing 600,000 personal data records - heaping data disaster upon data disaster. Reality says that laptops will be stolen, even when we think they are secure. I've had a laptop stolen from a hotel room, as have many friends and colleagues, and I know of friends and colleagues who've had laptops stolen from cars, or worse*
While it's wise to do everything to avoid theft (I always use a Kensington lock on my laptop in hotels now), the other important step is to minimise the impact of the loss. According to the BBC news report "Teachers put pupil data at risk", which was prompted by research by RM, teachers in nearly half of England's primary schools back up pupil data on CDs and memory sticks, which they then take out of school. The survey of 933 schools found only 1% of respondents were encrypting the data. And I'm pretty sure that you'll have members of the leadership team in your school who take home a complete copy of your pupil database each night on their laptop (hint: go and look at the laptop belonging to the timetabler first).
The information that I wrote last July on data security is still accurate today, and contains an action plan, but here's a very quick reminder of two ends of the scale:
This is potentially quite a boring subject (and can be quite dry, as I discovered researching this), but the alternative to doing nothing is that you go through quite an 'exciting' time, like HMRC.
We've been through it ourselves - to read our Trustworthy Computing web site for more about our security journey.
* Worse: One friend took his laptop into a supermarket (to avoid leaving it in his boot) and had it stolen from his trolley. Or so he thought. When the security staff at the supermarket watched the CCTV tapes, to help him find the thief, it appeared he'd walked in with an empty trolley. So where was the laptop? On the roof of his car... Before you laugh to hard, I bet you've heard of people leaving phones on the roof of their car, and driving off...