News last week of the theft of a laptop computer from Fidelity Investments that reportedly contained confidential client information is perhaps the final straw for many companies and individuals, who in increasing numbers have recently sought out precautions ranging from old-fashioned locks to sophisticated software protection.

Among the information on the Fidelity computer was the Social Security numbers of 196,000 Hewlett-Packard employees, news reports indicated. Fidelity manages Hewlett-Packard's retirement plans. Ameriprise Financial and aircraft maker Boeing have also suffered similar hiccups.

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