What’s on your laptop can be career limiting

I know the readership of this column is a technical crowd. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about computer viruses and other related technical issues.

If you’re a software developer, tester, business analyst, or project manager, if you lose your laptop, leave it on the train or it is stolen out of your car, the work files you have on your laptop can potentially get you fired.

For software developers, your risks include the release of

  • Test data containing real customer information, including credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.
  • Hardwired company passwords to FTP sites, cloud computer based applications, and fire wall pass-throughs
  • Source code to company proprietary algorithms, such as security schemes, mathematical formulas, stock/bond purchase algorithms, etc.
  • Company internal data, such as customer lists, marketing plans, employee salary information, etc.
  • Company proprietary source code that gives your company a competitive edge or is used in a software product if you work for a software company

For testers, your risks include the release of

  • All those things listed above for software developers if you are working closely with the software development teams
  • Test plans that highlight potential weaknesses in client/customer facing software applications
  • Functional and Technical Specification documents that contain information on company proprietary software applications, business processes, and implementation schedules
  • Lists of problems with current project software that could be exploited for fraudulent purposes
  • List of testing passwords that are live in production applications

For business analysts your risks include the release of

  • All of those items listed above if you are working closely with the software developers and/or testers
  • Documentation on key business processes, business initiatives, quotes and analysis of existing company problems and issues from company executives and application users.
  • Business cases that include information on company initiates and new product releases

For project managers your issues include the release of

  • Names and contact info of key business and technical users
  • Names of key developers, testers, business analysts, and users
  • Project timeframes and business initiatives

The goal of the above lists is simply to illustrate the potential problems that could be caused for your company if your laptop is lost and ends up in the wrong hands. As you saw when reading these lists, good work is being done, all intent is ethical, and this type of information is probably on your laptop because you plan to work at home. The lesson is don’t get in trouble for working hard and trying to do the right thing.

  • Be cognizant of what information is contained on your laptop
  • Use disk-level encryption installed in cooperation with your company’s PC help desk
  • For those of you who are managers, assure that your team is also cognizant of these issues and potential safeguards

In retrospect, earlier in my career, as a programmer, business analyst, and project manager, I believe there were times when I had information on my PC that could have caused problems for my company, and me, if my laptop was lost or stolen. I don’t think the rules and maybe even the risks were as well defined and/or as severe as they are now. Nevertheless, it would not have been pleasant. Don’t let this happen to you. In today’s world it could cost you a promotion, a raise, a bonus, your job, and/or in extreme cases, your professional reputation.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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