- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

If you bring your laptop computer or cell phone to bed, your partner may resent more than just the fact that you are working late. You might bring along a computer virus or invite an identity thief to jump in.

What’s more, according to a London survey conducted for Credant Technologies of Dallas,, 57 percent of people who bring a mobile device to bed use it there between two and six hours per week. Needless to say, most respondents found their partners’ cell-phone obsession “a very annoying habit,” the survey said.

That annoyance resonates on this side of the Atlantic.

Fairfax Realtor Mary Thyfault Clark said she brings her laptop computer to bed, and “it drives my husband crazy. But I like the dogs to be able to snuggle with me and to catch what is on TV when I’m doing e-mail,” she said, adding, “I work all the time.”

In Portland, Ore., Dean Rodgers, president of public relations firm Koifish Communications, finds himself tapping away on a BlackBerry while his software consultant wife, Jennifer, does the same - though “not for very long” on an average night, he claims.

Is there, well, any effect on their marriage?

In fact, risque text messages sometimes fly back and forth, Mr. Rodgers said, laughing.

Using technology in the bedroom may seem odd, he said, but as a self-employed entrepreneur, “life and work blend in a much more beautiful and natural way.”

“It’s a very freeing thing having technology at your disposal 24/7. You don’t have to shoehorn your life into certain hours. It’s much better for your brain,” he said.

Whatever the brain benefits, using wireless technology at home can expose you and your data to hackers, pirates trolling for data, and other nefarious operators, cautioned Michael Callahan, Credant’s vice president for marketing. And while the latest survey covered 300 workers in “the City,” London’s financial district, results aren’t that far off from what is happening in America.

“We’ve done several surveys like this in the U.S., and the results parallel the U.K. almost exactly. People check their BlackBerry or bring their laptop to bed,” Mr. Callahan said. “It’s kind of a global situation.”

The problem arises when workers use their unsecured wireless home networks, or leave confidential data on an unencrypted device that is then lost. According to the Credent survey, 44 percent of respondents acknowledged they store “important work documents” on mobile devices. Of those devices, the survey found, 54 percent “were not adequately secured with encryption.” Only 20 percent use secure wireless networks at home, the survey found.

“These devices are carrying more and more corporate information on them. … There’s a risk of having intellectual property stolen, a risk of breach disclosures,” Mr. Callahan said.

The proliferation of mobile devices means data no longer resides “at the office and on a server,” he added. “It’s in your bed at a hotel or at home. Data is everywhere now, and you have to be able to protect it.”

The solution? Mr. Callahan is a strong advocate of encrypting office data on any device you use at home, whether it’s a laptop, a phone or a USB drive.

“The regulations are out there,” he said. “If you lose any of these devices and have them encrypted, you don’t have to tell anyone. However, if you lose any of these, and it’s not encrypted, you have to tell everyone that could be affected.”

Although 96 percent of those surveyed say their final act at night is to kiss their partner goodnight, some American technology junkies acknowledge falling asleep with their gadgets. Marie Domingo, public relations director for Silver Peak Systems in Santa Clara, Calif., said she has been known to wake up with her computer in her hands.

“I’ve been told that I have been seen in the morning cradling my notebook in bed,” Ms. Domingo admitted. “It would be rare if I only had my BlackBerry near my pillow.”

Though Ms. Domingo lives alone, she said her boyfriend, a technology reporter, “has twice as many technology items next to him when he falls asleep.” For her part, Ms. Domingo said her gear and her data are encrypted.

Amanda Carlock, an advertising account manager at Diccicco Battista Communications in Horsham, Pa., brings her cell phone to bed, much to the annoyance of her “significant other.”

He “gets frustrated with how attached I am to my cell phone,” Ms. Carlock said. “He doesn’t understand you need to be constantly connected. When the phone goes off, I roll over to check it right away.”

At the same time, Ms. Carlock concedes a need to revisit her high-tech habits: “It is an addictive behavior,” she said. “It’s a work-life balance. It’s also a tech-life balance.

“You need to know when to turn it off.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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