As laptops continue to become more and more prevalent, they have increasingly become a target for thieves looking to score a quick and pricey haul. It’s not hard to find statistics showing how staggering widespread laptop theft is. Or how few stolen laptops are ever recovered. While the cost of the laptops themselves can be a painful enough loss, many people don’t realize just how valuable their data can be until it has fallen into the wrong hands. In order to help laptop owners hold on to their precious investments, here are a few tips and tools to prevent your laptop from being stolen – or recover it if you do lose it.
The first rule is to simply use common sense. Don’t leave your laptop lying around in public – ever. Personally, every time I take my laptop out, I imagine it as a $2000 bundle of money. I would never leave a bundle of money sitting out unsecured, so why would I do that with my laptop? I would hope that most people think like this as well, but it seems that the vast majority of laptop thefts are crimes of opportunity. Too many people simply leave their laptops sitting in the open out of their sight. If I’m in a public place, my laptop or laptop bag is never more than a few feet away. If I leave my laptop in my car, it always goes in the trunk, out of plain sight. I am perhaps overly paranoid about keeping my laptop close to me, but I guarantee that no one will ever swipe my laptop from me because I neglected it. If you too are diligent about keeping your laptop in your possession, then you will likely never have it stolen either.
The second rule is physical security. If you are in a situation where you must leave your laptop out of your sight in a unsecured or unfamiliar environment, then do what you must to lock your laptop to something secure. For example, when I’ve traveled and left my laptop in my hotel room, I take along and use a laptop cable lock. Similar in idea to bicycle chain locks, laptop cable locks connect to a physically reinforced security port found on almost all laptops. Once connected to the security port, the cable is designed to be looped around a permanent object such as a heavy table so that the laptop is secured in place. While most laptop cable locks can be cut with 14″ bolt cutters, they will deter the casual “snatch and grab” theft and will stand up to small handheld wire cutters.
Finally, if all else fails and your laptop is stolen, all hope is not lost – if you have installed laptop recovery software, that is. Software like LoJack for Laptops actually keeps contact with a “recovery center”, communicating what Internet address the laptop is connected to at any given time. When a laptop is lost the owner contacts the recovery center who then begins monitoring what address the laptop is reporting. Using this information they can track down what Internet provider is assigned the address. Working with the Internet provider and law enforcement, the lost laptop can be tracked down and recovered from the thief or whomever is in possession of the laptop at the time. LoJack for laptops is only $49.99 for one year of service, or $99.99 for 3 years.
A recent story in the news highlighted how technology can be used to recover stolen laptops. Using the built-in functions of an Apple MacBook along with the optional .Mac service, the theft victim was able to remotely control her laptop and take a picture of one of the thieves! This picture helped law enforcement capture the thieves and return the laptop to its rightful owner.
So by using some common sense and a few useful products, your laptop can stay on your lap. If you have any questions about securing your laptop, please let me know.