There’s no need to understand the reference to the 1960’s “Steal This Book,” to understand what’s going on in the world of computer security.

Because it’s time to stop worrying so much about hackers and viruses and worry a lot more about the physical security of office equipment, particularly those laptops with a tendency to roam.

Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report for July through December 2007 tells us what many who pay attention to security issues already know. But to see the facts quantified is still a bit startling.

Microsoft found that what it called exploits, malware and hacking accounted for no more than 23 percent of security breach notifications from 2000 through 2007 and they represented only 13 percent of those notifications in the last six months of last year.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that publicly disclosed incidents of lost or stolen equipment was responsible for 57 percent of breaches in the last half of 2007.

To put it simplistically, hacking is down. Loss and theft is up. And equipment theft was a disproportionate part of the problem. The summary didn’t break down the percentages by category, but a bar chart shows that theft rose from about 36 percent of all breaches in 2000 to a little over 45 percent last year. Lost equipment was up from about 8 percent to about 13 percent over the same time.

During the same period, viruses, subject of so much worry, fell from about 1 to 2 percent to be invisible on the chart. Hacking incidents dropped from about 22 percent to around 13 percent.

What this tells us is that stupidity is a far greater source of loss than evil intent. And while the summary doesn’t provide such information, it’s an easy bet that stolen laptops, particularly those left in automobiles, account for a lot of this.

Anti-virus software and spam filters are still necessary. But don’t forget the good old-fashioned lock.

And a bit of common sense.

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