June 24, 2022

Lost and stolen laptops

Whether you’re traveling or staying close to home this summer, remember to secure your laptops and other mobile devices from theft.

Stolen laptops are a common cause of unauthorized disclosure and loss of data at universities. If your laptop is lost or stolen, resulting in a breach of personal information, Washington state law (RCW 42.56.590) requires notification within 30 days to anyone impacted by the breach. State law considers the type of personal information and whether it was encrypted in determining if the loss constitutes a data breach.

Besides backing up your data, review the following list of things to do to mitigate the risk of losing your laptop.

Things to do

  • Enable encryption on your computers, laptops, and mobile devices.
  • Protect computers and devices with a strong password.
  • Register your laptop with appropriate administrative and/or purchasing staff.
  • Turn on location tracking so you can find it if it is lost or stolen.
  • Never leave your laptop in a vehicle.
  • Don’t leave laptops and other devices unattended in public spaces.
  • Secure your laptop in an office with cable locks, lockdown devices, or inside a locked drawer. Try not to leave your device in plain sight — even if locked.
  • Dispose of devices securely when you no longer need them.
  • Report lost and stolen laptops that are UW-owned to your IT support staff and fill out the Incident Report Form.

See the Securing Laptops Risk Advisory for more tips.