While recently flying back home, I was lucky to sit in the emergency row.  Just after takeoff, I pulled out my laptop to catch up on work e-mails and sure enough everyone else in my row did the same.  The man to my right had a nice Lenovo and upon booting up, I could see that he had full disk encryption. He used biometric login (fingerprint), and he had something covering his webcam.  So clearly this guy and his IT team are taking their data security seriously, and kudos to them!

Unfortunately, right after the peanuts were served and I got my Coke Zero, I glanced over at his screen and I was sickened by what I saw.  I learned that he was a financial consultant of some kind, and he was reviewing business P&L statements and from what I could see, the business owner’s tax returns.  So there it was in plain sight for me and the row of people behind him…. what the company got for their PPP loans, expenses, sales projections, and the owner’s draws on the business.  And worst of all, I could see the name, home address, and the social security number of the business owner and his wife.

Being the nice person I am (and trying to see if he could use my services), I introduced myself and gently told him that I was able to see his entire 15-inch screen and more importantly, all of his client’s sensitive information.  At first, he was surprised that I was even looking, but I told him what I did and that clearly he took data protection and cybersecurity seriously, but he wasn’t using the best judgment or common sense like protecting the data from being seen.  Someone from behind him could have been taking pictures of his screen and easily have taken that information for malicious purposes.

So outside of using common sense and ensuring that no one can visibly read and steal data, the solution is to get a laptop privacy screen.  These screens are fairly inexpensive (around $25) and they only allow the content of your screen to be seen if you are sitting right in front of it.  So, if someone is sitting next to you or has an off-angle view of your screen, they will just see black.  Other benefits of a privacy screen are that some of them block blue light to protect your eyes and they also protect the laptop screen itself from being scratched.