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More laptop theft – is yours encrypted?

25 Jan 2011

Use IT Services' encryption service and report thefts or losses immediately

Seven laptops were stolen during December. When a laptop is stolen or lost, this is not just an inconvenience for the person who uses it - it can have serious consequences for the University:

  • If it contained personal data relating to staff, students or research participants, the University may be in breach of data protection laws and good practice which can result in large fines, significant reputation damage and cost;
  • Where it contained research or unpublished academic material, the intellectual property may be at risk;
  • When laptops are used to connect to the University’s administrative systems and email, they may enable unauthorised access.

The most effective method of preventing unauthorised access to data on laptops is to encrypt them. This means that a pass-phrase known only to the custodian of the laptop must be entered in order to access any information.

The Information Commissioner has recently fined an organisation £60,000 for the loss of an unencrypted laptop which contained personal information and has powers to fine up to £500,000.

It is University policy that all University-owned laptops, regardless of funding source, must be encrypted.  No personal or confidential University data should be stored on unencrypted personal laptops, computers, memory sticks or other portable devices.

The Directorate of IT Services has procedures in place to handle the encryption of laptops. Requests for encryption should be made through:

If your University laptop is stolen, please contact

  • University Security Office immediately on 0161 306 9966 (the number is on the back of your staff card)

More information on personal data and data protection guidance can be found at: