You can't always prevent the theft or loss of equipment. But you can secure confidential data held on it, says Andrew Donaghue.

The high-profile penalty suffered by the UK's leading mutual building society demonstrates the necessity of adequate data protection. Negligent data loss leads to:

- Loss of public confidence and regard

- Financial penalties and legal concerns

Each year, millions of individuals are vulnerable to exploitation due to poor data protection by enterprises of all sizes. Physical theft of equipment is widespread, with more than a third of large businesses reporting thefts, according to the Department of Trade and Industry's Security Breaches Survey 2006. Each stolen or mislaid laptop presents a possible treasure trove of data to the thief or finder if no security measures have been taken.

The new global awareness of this issue is making companies legally responsible for the consequences of losing data through negligence. Organisations must take cognisance of this by adopting all possible means to protect all their own data as well as that of their customers and affiliates. By investing in data security devices for every computer, companies can ensure that their data is effectively protected and their liabilities are minimised.

As companies are increasingly alert to the risk of unintentionally exposed data, many are consequently looking for a solution that can prevent unauthorised access if a laptop is lost or stolen. Sophisticated hardware solutions such as FlagStone Fully Encrypted Hard Drives combine advanced whole disk encryption with expert authentication. By installing one of these secure drives rather than a standard hard drive, companies can ensure that all the data saved to the computer is protected, including deleted and temporary files.

With the ever-increasing out-of-office use of company laptops, the threat of them being lost or stolen is escalating. The increase in numbers and the decrease in size of high-spec models make laptop computers particularly prone to theft.

Yet, organisations cannot avoid responsibility for enforcing information security procedures. Those companies neglecting to protect their data will find it hard to effectively defend their position to victims of identity fraud. Choosing to encrypt stored data and prevent unauthorised access can provide the protection many companies require. By installing properly accredited information security solutions, companies and employees no longer have to fear the impact of a lost computer.

Loss of customer confidence is a key corporate concern that results in damage to reputation and a real threat of a concomitant drop in share value. The financial implications are not restricted to just the replacement of hardware and payment of fines.

Studies indicate that the cost per compromised personal record is nearly £100, yet this cost pales in comparison to the soaring expense of rebuilding customer confidence.

Minimal investment expenditure on encryption devices now rather than prodigious expense when, rather than if, a laptop does go missing will ensure that corporate reputations remain intact. FlagStone Technology is trusted by central and local government and respected business corporations worldwide. FlagStone Drives are available via an extensive network of Stonewood vendor partners located throughout the UK and overseas, or directly from the company.