The security services and James Bond have always been synonymous with technological gadgets. Although Bond is fictional, many of the tools he uses are real. Henry Tucker looks at the ways you can keep your business data safe.

If you use a laptop it's probably the thing you fear the most, losing it or having it stolen. As more companies move their staff on to mobile devices, having a contingency in place for when disaster strikes is now a must for IT departments.

One Boeing worker knows full well what it's like to lose their laptop, in fact the loss was considered so severe they also lost their job. The PC apparently contained work and personal details of over 350,000 current and retired staff from the aerospace manufacturer.

The laptop was said to be turned off, password protected and all the files were encrypted, but it wasn't enough to help the person keep their job. The trouble was that this wasn't the first time the company had hit the headlines for an incident like this.

When it happened before, Jim McNerney, Boeing's chairman, president and chief executive said that security standards would be improved. This clearly didn't have much of an effect and this latest loss was deemed so severe that the person's managers will also be disciplined.

If it's any solace to Boeing, the company is not alone in suffering from embarrassing laptop loses. Cast your minds back to 2000 when an MI5 agent lost their laptop. The incident was considered so severe that the then Home Secretary Jack Straw was informed as was Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Although there may not have been a risk to national security, another loss from an employee of building society Nationwide goes to show that losing just one laptop can have huge repercussions for your company.

The laptop in question was taken from the employee's house during a burglary but, according to Nationwide, didn't contain any banking details of the building society's customers, PINs or transaction information.

It did say, though, that because of the limited data on the PC there was a risk of possible identity theft. After the loss, Nationwide wrote to all its customers explaining the security measures it has in place. It didn't say whether the data on the laptop was encrypted.

Each of these losses show that by enabling staff to take their work home with them, the data they take may be at risk. When employees are sat at their desks, connected to a company's network, there are numerous layers of protection. Many of these layers are left behind the second they unplug.

In order to regain some of this protection, every company should have a set of rules and practices in place for every person who uses a laptop.

The amount of data that's stored on mobile devices is staggering. In fact according Martin Allen, managing director of Pointsec Mobile Technologies, in his article 'A Day in the Life of Mobile Data': 'over 80 per cent of new and critical data is now stored on mobile devices'.

The main defence all companies should use is data encryption software. There's no excuse for any business these days not to use some form of encryption as it's inexpensive and easy to use. Depending on the software you opt for, files are encrypted seamlessly as they are copied from folders and passed between colleagues.

This is often 'on the fly' and in the background so users don't have the option not to use it and leave files vulnerable. In fact for encryption to be an effective defence it should be mandatory for all file transfers.

After all if a user has to remember to encrypt a file after they've put it on to their PC or USB memory stick, they might not always do so. Also if they have the ability to turn it off they will do; it's amazing what people do to speed things up.

Paul Allen adds: 'enterprise security management infrastructure is required to deploy encryption and authentication capabilities on each mobile device, keep policies up to date, and to continuously monitor compliance.'

Don't skimp either when it comes to encryption, if your data is valuable to you then it will be doubly valuable to your competitors. Use the highest level of encryption you can, something like 256-bit AES.

Many companies often think that once a laptop has gone there is no hope. Unfortunately that usually is the case unless you invest in tracking software for all mobile equipment.

The idea of tracking laptops may sound a bit James Bond, whereas really it's just common sense. There are many options available that install a small applet that runs in the background, that use barely any system resources. Type 'laptop tracking' into your favourite search engine and see.

Whenever the user goes online it sends a message to the software provider giving it's IP address, the phone number of the line it's using and the ISP. If the laptop is listed as stolen, if it's used on the internet, then the software provider works with local law enforcement to locate the laptop. Some software also enables users to remotely delete files from the stolen machine to prevent data falling into the wrong hands.

Something else that many experts recommend is to analyse where, when and how the laptop was lost, to see if there's any pattern to it.

One company, which we will call A, noticed that its staff were being preyed upon by thieves as they walked from their offices to the company's car park, because of their distinctive laptop bags. They issued everyone with identical rucksacks instead, so as to disguise what they were carrying.

It's now possible to buy laptop back packs that protect the PC as well as making them more comfortable to carry and less conspicuous. However, if you replace everyone's laptop bag with a rucksack you do run the risk of thieves cottoning on and stealing them instead, of course.

It's a massive understatement to say that data loss in any environment, home or work, is bad. When that data can be used by a person outside of your company, the ramifications are even worse. In cases such as internet banking, where you could also lose money, repairing the damage and the loss of confidence from your customers could take a long time.

Everyone likes to be able to work wherever they are with ease, however this means that every business that enables its staff to do this must examine its data security closely. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure so make sure you're covered before it's too late.

Further reading