Laptop Security for Accounting Professionals | AccountingWEB

Laptop Security for Accounting Professionals

Laptop theft appears to be a cottage industry in the US. Consider these facts:

• According to Safeware Insurance Agency, more than 750,000 laptops are stolen every year. This translates into more than 1 billion dollars in lost property and according to the study more than $5 billion loss of proprietary information.

• According to the FBI, a whopping 97% to 98% of stolen computers never return to their rightful owner.

• From 2005 to 2006 there was an 81% increase in the number of companies reporting stolen laptops containing sensitive information (2006 Annual Study: The Cost of Data Breach. Ponemon Institute, LLC, 2007).

• The average business loses about 5% of its laptop inventory to theft. Top law enforcement agencies aren't even immune. The FBI reportedly experiences three to four laptop thefts a month.

• More than half of the stolen laptops are stolen out of offices so almost nobody is really immune to the risk of having their laptop disappear. 90% of laptop theft is committed by insiders.

Clearly people with confidential information on their laptops need to take measures to make sure that the thieves will not be able to access this confidential information. Regulations like Gramm-Leach-Bliley, HIPAA, Canada’s PIPEDA, the EU Data Directive, Sarbanes-Oxley, and state security breach notification laws can impose criminal penalties for those compromise other’s confidential information. Whole disk encryption is certainly a solution people with confidential information on their laptop should consider. This is clearly an important issue but not the subject of day’s post.

Today’s post is focused on technology that can improve the chances of recovering a stolen laptop from 2% to over 75%. This is technology that is widely available and proven to work. It involves loading software on your computer that allows your computer to let you know where it is when it has been stolen.

This software is called “track and trace software.” It is designed for people who have laptops with lots of confidential information and for companies who are losing lots of laptops. It works by loading software on your laptop that uses an Internet connection to tell you where it is after it is stolen. There are lots of these products (ex. Computrace LoJack, XTool Laptop Tracker, CyberAngel, and more) and some are loaded at the bios level so they still work even if the hard drive is reformatted.

Absolute's Computrace product will instruct you laptop upon its first connection to the Internet to send Absolute its IP address every 15 minutes. With that information, Absolute's staff, working with law enforcement, tracks down the laptop.

Absolute's product also includes technology that customers can use to destroy data remotely in case the laptop can't be recovered in time. The deletion technology can be policy-based. IT can instruct the laptop to delete sensitive data if it remains off the corporate network for a certain period of time.

Another tool, XTool Tracker, has similar features to Absolute’s Computrace but also has lots of other methods to help recover your stolen laptop. These guys are really serious about getting your laptop back. The following is a list of the things the software can do to try to recover your laptop:

Internet Connection Information In most situations, the Local IP and the Public IP information is enough to recover a lost or stolen laptop. Once it has been determined by our recovery team that this information is reliable, a tracking report is produced so that the police can subpoena the Internet service provider to obtain the contact information associated with the IP addresses.

WiFi Connection Information Since there are so many sources of "free" wireless connections available today, it is easily assumed that a stolen laptop will be connected to one of these sources. WiFi information is used by the XTool Laptop Tracker to make sure that the Internet information collected is reliable and that it can be used to obtain from the police a subpoena.

Telephone Connection Information If an unauthorized user connects your monitored laptop to a telephone line, the XTool Laptop Tracker will place a call to a toll free number at their monitoring center. The monitoring center will then obtain the phone number used to place the call using ANI-Caller ID; even if the caller ID is blocked at the calling location.
Remote Forensic Collection and HoneyPot Collected Information Using an advanced forensic collection tool, the XTool® Recovery Team is able to identify the unauthorized user (name, email, address, etc). This information is then transmitted via Internet or through a telephone connection. The main advantage of this technique is that it does not require a subpoena and has proven successful in cases where the primary tracking methods are not viable.

GPS Information GPS is becoming more popular and some laptop manufacturers are even shipping units with a built-in GPS device. XTool® Laptop Tracker has the ability to detect any type of GPS device connected to the monitored laptop and relay this information to the XTool® Monitoring Center to track. By default, this option is deactivated. However, since the information collected by a GPS is useful even when the laptop has not been reported lost or stolen, the customer wishing to monitor GPS activity can activate this feature without filing a theft/loss report.

Camera Information Some laptops are now made with built-in cameras. XTool® Laptop Tracker has the ability to detect a camera connected to a laptop and can take a snapshot of the unauthorized user that is then relayed to the XTool® Monitoring Center. A picture of the unauthorized user not only quickly leads to the location of the thief but can be used as evidence in case the laptop is sold to a 3rd party.

So why take a chance? If you have confidential information on your laptop, failing to implement some type of control procedure could end up costing you time and grief, create problems with customers and clients, cost you your job, or even land you in jail. These tools work and just could save the day.

William C. (Will) Fleenor, CPA.CITP, Ph.D.
Member, K2 Enterprises, LLC

This blog

by The K2 Team - Look here for anything that involves technology and accounting. K2 Enterprises is the largest supplier of technology CPE (Continuing Professional Education) for CPAs, CGAs and CAs in North America. The K2 team routinely reviews software and hardware products from all major publishers and teaches accountants how to use these tools effectively. The entire K2 team has 10+ years of experience, many with 30+ years of technology and accounting experience.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.