Friday, October 9, 2015

Corporate Spy Games? Or Just Bad Luck?

(This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.)
Funny story here... OK, not so funny actually. 
Have you ever felt like someone was eyeing your stuff, like your iPhone or a new bag? I have, but that's mostly because I work in risk management and I'm paranoid. But then one day it happened to me, and now I'm SUPER paranoid.

I was returning to the US from a work assignment when my silver Apple laptop, was stolen. But it wasn't just stolen... the culprit actually replaced it with an identical device that even had scratches in the same places. The job went so smoothly I was none the wiser until I sat on my couch and opened it. The login screen was different, and my heart stopped.
At approximately the same time my phone rang. A Russian voice told me my laptop was in route to the West Coast and I may never see it again. OK, so the Russian voice part isn't true, but the rest is. I'm sure by now you're wondering how and why this happened.
There is an organization who operates in shadow of American cities.They watch and record your every move. If they get their hands on your stuff consider it gone forever. This organization is known as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
The call I received was from a JetBlue Airways representative who informed me that my laptop was in the possession of "Agent X", a.k.a. another passenger, who believed the switch happened during the TSA screening process. He saw my name on the login screen and notified JetBlue, who then searched flight manifests originating in the same city at approximately the same time. My name was on a different manifest. 

We got connected and after recounting our experiences during TSA screening we concluded that as "Agent X" was selected for additional screening the TSA agent who retrieved his backpack and "silver Apple laptop" actually retrieved MY laptop. This likely happened as I was standing in the human microwave. After being cleared I grabbed what I thought was my laptop, stuffed it in my bag and went on my way.
Due to my paranoia my information was backed up to a removable hard drive. I was able to continue working until "Agent X" and I could arrange a swap. The first thing I did when I got my laptop back was slap a bunch of crazy stickers on it so it wouldn't be confused with someone else who has an identical laptop.
But this also brings up additional questions about how your organization manages its mobile assets. Do you use generic Lenovo laptops? So does everybody else, so how do you prevent this from happening to your corporate assets while traveling? Read my article, 3 Travel Security Musts, for some suggestions.

Update: I should point out that after this experience I filed a claim with TSA and outlined what happened and how I was inconvenienced. I was compensated for my troubles. It wasn't much, like $160 or something. So, TSA isn't all bad.

- Dragon's Lair Security |
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