University Police Issue Warning about Rash of Laptop Computer Thefts

May 2, 2008 — Michael Gibson, chief of the University of Virginia Police Department, today issued a warning to all members of the U.Va. community regarding security precautions following a recent rash of laptop computer thefts both on and off the U.Va. Grounds.

"I would like to remind all members of the University community to be cautious with laptops and other electronic equipment that can be easy targets for crimes of opportunity," Gibson wrote in a University-wide e-mail. "The greatest concern is that sensitive personal information might be exposed. Please be especially alert to protecting your personal property and that of the University."

Gibson wrote that suspected breaches of sensitive or legally protected data, whether such breach results from computer theft or other inappropriate access, should be reported to your departmental system administrator and to the Information Technolgy and Communication Security & Policy Office immediately. Thefts should also be reported to the police at 911.

Here are some reminders about how to keep your property safe:

  • Don't let your mobile device – laptop, camera, cell phone, mp3 player, BlackBerry, PDA, USB "thumb" drive – out of your sight at any time in any public place, no matter how safe it may seem. The same advice applies to back packs, purses, briefcases and any other easily transportable property.
  • Don’t park and then put valuables in your trunk – you may be  observed. Secure them before you leave.
  • Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car.
  • Always lock your car.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas where the vehicle could become an easy target.

 In addition, here are some reminders about how to protect the data on your electronic device:

  • Be sure to password-protect your laptop, BlackBerry or PDA.
  • Delete any sensitive data – grades, employee evaluations, Social Security numbers, credit card or bank information, birthdates, tax ID numbers – when you no longer need it or whenever you take your computer off University property.
  • Before you leave the office, make sure that you have made one last backup of any data that you value.
To learn more about protecting your portable devices and backing up data, visit the Security for Mobile Computing Devices Web site at: