I was issued a high-end Mac laptop to perform my work. I was told that I should take the laptop to and from the office with me.

Often on my way home form the office I stop by the grocery store or somewhere to pick something up. When I do this I put my backpack (containing said laptop) out of sight and lock my vehicle.

My problem is that I feel a little uneasy about this. I have no exceptional reason to be worried about theft, except it would be awful for that laptop to be stolen.

I have looked through our security docs and they mostly deal with online behaviour and there is some ambiguous language about "taking steps to unsure security". But nothing specific like "never leave computer unattended".

So I'm unsure that if, for some reason, the laptop were stolen from my car, would the response be "You idiot, you should never leave your computer in the car" or more like "Damn. You took the steps you could but this stuff happens"

Is this practice of leaving my work laptop in my vehicle acceptable? What if I want to go to the gym, where my car would be unattended for an hour?

I know no one can tell how people at my company would react, but I bet the shared experience of workplace.se can come up with a close approximation.

  • I don't know that its about the office being insecure. I would take the laptop home anyway since I sometimes work from home. – Dan Dec 18 '17 at 21:41
  • Then why the policy you must take on the laptop? – paparazzo Dec 18 '17 at 21:42
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    are you concerned about the loss of property or the loss of data? The loss of data could expose your organization to a much larger cost. While the loss of property is limited to the value of the replacement machine or the amount of the deductible. – mhoran_psprep Dec 18 '17 at 21:44
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    What is the your companies policies on securing your laptop? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 18 '17 at 22:29
  • I couldn't really find anything specific to this. They have stuff like: have it locked with a password, be wary of unknown email, some acceptable personal use is ok... – Dan Dec 18 '17 at 22:31

My last job was at a consulting company where they issued laptops and people traveled quite a bit. Obviously loss and theft of said laptops was a problem. The policy there was that the laptop had to be in the trunk and stored out of sight. Couldn't be in the back of an SUV/Wagon. I have kept following that practice when moving on to my current job where they don't have an official policy AFAIK but it seems reasonable. I don't leave it in the trunk for extended periods of time but when I do stop for groceries or something on the way home that's what I do. I also try to put it in the trunk when I leave work instead of after getting to where ever I'm making a stop.

Could someone break into my trunk while in the store? Sure but since they should have no reason to break into it the odds of someone actually doing that are pretty slim.

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    Sensible advice. Unfortunately I have a single cab truck. So the best I'm able to do is put it behind the seat out of sight. On the bright side, my 2003 dodge is a pretty low value target – Dan Dec 18 '17 at 22:26
  • My only vehicle also has no trunk. That policy is ridiculous. – HLGEM Dec 18 '17 at 22:34
  • @HLGEM no its not in the UK BT had major conference for mangers and after wards they found that a load of the hatchback company cars had had there windows smashed and the company laptops stolen – Neuromancer Dec 19 '17 at 15:58
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    @Neuromancer, that's fine if the company pays for the vehicle. The employer will find it's cheaper to replace the laptop than buy/lease a car for everyone. Many non-managers will have laptops and I don't think the company intends to provide them cars. – cdkMoose Dec 19 '17 at 20:22
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    @Neuromancer understood, but they still can't mandate what kind of car you own – cdkMoose Dec 19 '17 at 23:03

Typically, when a piece of equipment that you can(and are expected too) take with you when you leave the office, you are expected to see to the security, and safety of the equipment when you take it home. So yes if you leave your laptop unattended and it is stolen then your company may decide to hold you responsible for the loss of that equipment.

Most companies I have worked for understand that things happen. If you file a report when you notice it stolen, then your company will probably give you the benefit of the doubt. Especially if you suffer property damage like a broken window or something similar due to the thief breaking in. On the other hand if you just leave your car unlocked and the laptop in plain view, then your company is less likely to be so forgiving.

Besides theft it is possible that your laptop could be damaged due to high heat, or cold if you leave the laptop in the car unattended during extreme weather. There is also the real possiblity that you or a passeneger in your vehicle may cause damage to the laptop by spilling food or drink on your laptop. These type of accidents are usually accepted as a cost of doing business if it happens very infrequently. Rule of thumb here seems to be the first time, is free, after that expect some consequences.

  • My last company required me to sign a promise note that says if stolen or lost, I am to pay a $900 replacement cost. – Dan Dec 19 '17 at 17:56
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    @Dan - They have insurance for that sort of thing... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 19 '17 at 18:58
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    @Dan, at that point I lock it in my desk every night and it never leaves the office. – cdkMoose Dec 19 '17 at 20:19
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    @EdwinBuck - Most workplace theft occurs from employees. Its a quite common practice especially with big companies. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 20 '17 at 17:11
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    @EdwinBuck - Most places do not have laptops left unattended and unlocked during off workplace hours. Most workplaces realize that people do not steal because they are bad, but because the opportunity presented itself and someone makes a poor decision. If you prevent the opportunities you help keep people honest. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 4 '18 at 1:35

Since it's an expensive laptop, I would suggest locking it either in the trunk or in the glove compartment. Also, take note of the serial number and store it in a safe place so that if it does get stolen, the authorities will be able to track it more easily.

Unless you have exceptionally sensitive or valuable data that would make your laptop a high-value target for theft, I think any rational person would consider this to be sufficient.

  • Of note, I believe you can report to Apple the laptop was stolen. If anyone brings the laptop in for service, they'll see it has been stolen. Chances are at that point the individual who brought it in bought the laptop from a pawn shop and now out of money after having to return a stolen laptop. So the list of victims grow from just one carelessly cared for item. – Dan Dec 19 '17 at 17:58

You are worrying about the future.

It all will come down to whether the person judging you determined that you took reasonable steps to secure the laptop. If you have the wrong person, a laptop in a locked trunk, in a safe welded to the car body, will not be sufficient. With the other extreme, a broken window meant you secured the laptop.

I would take reasonable steps to secure the laptop if the damage is likely only to be the cost of the hardware. That means "out of sight" in a non-descript bag, preferably in something you can shove under a seat. Either that or something that can be placed under a jacket or other non-valueable item.

If you live in a high-crime area, you might improve upon this.

If you are aware that the loss of your laptop could have a harmful impact on the core business operations, where such a loss of data could easily exceed the cost of the hardware, I'd take a more careful approach. Locking the laptop in the trunk, coordinating with IT to ensure the hard drive is encrypted, and attempting to use the laptop primarily as a vehicle for accessing sensitive data in virtual machines secured in company server rooms (as opposed to keeping the data on the laptop).

There is no correct answer, because one cannot determine how the theft will be handled or judged by the person reviewing it. As long as you take sensible steps that seem measured against the possible value of the loss, you likely will not be seen as negligent.

Oh, I just saw the update you had, mentioning you have a truck. Trucks typically have VERY LOUSY security, as far as vehicles go (I owned one, and it was the only vehicle I had that was broken into 3 times). Since you don't have a decent trunk, you might have a lock box. Assuming it is clamped to the vehicle from the inside the lock box, it passes as an "effective trunk". If you don't, the only option you have is to hide it "out of sight".

  • As far as hiding it out of sight, it is best to do that at the point where you get into the car. That way no one watching in the location you go to will see you hide a laptop. That reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the risk that your specific vehicle will be broken into. – HLGEM Dec 20 '17 at 16:17

Firstly, do not leave the laptop in an unattended vehicle - even if it's hidden from sight. There's a reason car parks have signs saying "leave no valuables in your vehicle". Either take it home and then do your groceries, or take it into the store with you.

However, I'd talk to your boss about whether you should be taking it out of the office everyday. Unless you're expected to be using the laptop to work remotely and out of hours, it's quite a burden on you to be responsible for the security of that laptop. As mentioned in comments, not only is there a material cost in replacing the laptop, there are significant concerns on data security. We quite regularly hear of laptops being left/found in taxis, on trains, and so on.

Ask them why you're being asked to shoulder such a responsibility, and put across that, unless it is a policy requirement for you to have access to the laptop 24/7, you should be able to leave the laptop at the office (possibly in a locked office or cupboard, or with one of those security alarm cables attaching to your desk).

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    It's not reasonable for the employee to have to adjust his life to suit the employer's demands outside of work hours in this fashion. – cdkMoose Dec 19 '17 at 20:35
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    @cdkMoose which is why I suggest he go talk to his boss about the whole thing – HorusKol Dec 19 '17 at 20:38

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