Laptop computers are one of the most commonly stolen items in the world. Freedom of Information (FoI) figures released by ViaSat found that between 1 March 2013 and 28 February 2014, over 180,000 electronic devices were reported lost or stolen to UK police forces from Cornwall to Cumbria.
The majority of these were laptops, smartphones and tablets. People pray on these items because they’re easy to steal, worth a lot of money and easy to sell. Furthermore, it’s now becoming increasingly common for criminals to sell personal information stored in them. As we become more dependent on our electronic devices, we store more of our personal and banking information than ever before. Identity thieves pay a premium for information obtained from used or stolen equipment.
There are steps we can take to protect laptop computers specifically, ensuring data is safe from theft. Not only will taking these steps help prevent it, they will also help you recover your notebook and data if the laptop is stolen.
Laptop Computers – Theft Prevention Tips
Password protect your machine
Always use a password at login! Too many people assume that it’s not necessary to include a password, however it’s very important to do so. It’s your first line of defense and as such, should be secure enough that it’s not easy to guess. Consider using a mix of capital letters, symbols and numbers for maximum security. If you struggle to remember complex codes, simply add a few random characters and symbols in the middle of a familiar word. This will ensure that it can’t be broken by brute force.
Regular back-up and encryption
In order to protect any sensitive information on laptop computers, always remember to keep a back-up file and to encrypt any important files. That way, even if your laptop gets stolen, you’ll still have your information and the thieves won’t be able to access it. Most virus scanning software will offer encryption as part of the package, though there are also dedicated tools which offer more advanced functionality. Windows Bitlocker is available on Enterprise computers and offers full drive encryption, plus additional features for encrypting USB drives and sticks.
Install tracking and recovery software
Tracking and recovery software helps locate laptop computers if they are stolen and also recovers any stored information. Depending on the software, it could protect your laptop in any number of ways. It could activate a GPS locator once you report the laptop stolen. It could also pinpoint the IP address where your laptop was last used to find its location. Some software uses the built-in webcams on laptops to take a snapshot of the thief and email the information to the police. Apple has a similar functionality to this on their MacBook.
Place an ID Tag on your laptops
Laptops are so portable, they’re easy to misplace. Most people who find lost items are honest enough to return these items. Having ID Tags with the contact information on the laptop actually encourages people to return them. Instead of placing your own information; which also places you at risk, you could hire a recovery service instead.
Recovery services place ID Tags with their address on the laptop, instead of your address. In order to protect your identity, laptop computers are returned to them and they will in turn return your laptop to you. And further to encourage people to return lost, missing or stolen laptops, they’ll even offer cash rewards. For a nominal fee, you’ll be able they tag your laptop with a tamper-proof ID that also makes your laptop harder to sell on.
Finally, nothing beats vigilance and commonsense. Avoid leaving laptop computers unattended. Avoid showing off your notebook in public places. And when carrying your laptop in a public place, use a discrete laptop bag. There are plenty of laptop bags out there that look like regular bags, in order to avoid catching the eye of thieves. Always be aware where you leave your things and if you ever do need to leave your laptop, leave it in a safe place under lock and key
Got any other suggestions? Sound off in the comments below!