Laptops are among the most valuable things we carry around with us, valued anywhere between $500 and $3000. This makes them perhaps one of the most dreaded items to lose from your person. According to a 2010 study on computer and electronic theft performed by MacTech, over a million computers were stolen each year in the United States alone, and the vast majority of them were laptops.
Since you’re likely going to get into situations where your laptop is in plain view, it’s normal to be afraid of it being stolen. The likelihood of this happening depends on a variety of factors which we will get into in some detail.
Narrow the Chances
The best remedy is prevention. Leaving your laptop out in the open while you go do something else is obviously not good. Most thieves will see this as a wonderful opportunity to slip in and grab the device. It eliminates the chance of confrontation which could damage the merchandise and possibly injure the thief. When you’re on a terrace having a drink while browsing through your laptop, and you suddenly feel the need to relieve yourself in the bathroom, take the laptop with you.
Besides keeping your laptop on your person at all times, you should definitely also make sure that you’re using it in an area that is neither too crowded nor too depopulated. Fewer people means fewer possible witnesses. The same, paradoxically, can happen in very crowded places. All the commotion and noise deafens people to their surroundings, making them less apt to notice that someone is stealing a laptop.
If you happen to be one of the many unfortunate victims of theft, it helps to have some way to block the laptop from being usable. Some laptops may have a hardware-based mechanism that prevents them from being used without some form of authentication (like a key). But if you’re not lucky enough to have one of those, you’ll need to use software-based methods (like having a password for every account on your operating system and eliminating guest accounts for Windows).
The good part about using Linux in this situation is that passwords are mandatory from the get-go. If you’re a Windows user and don’t use passwords to log into your OS, you’re going to have to get used to it!
You should have ways to track your laptop, not just because it might get stolen, but also because it can be equally useful when you lose it. For loss recovery you could use privacy-friendly tagging services like BoomerangIt or ReturnMe. For tracking you could use Prey, as we’ve previously suggested in this article about remotely wiping your Linux computer. It works on a variety of operating systems and platforms.
Just be aware that remote wiping should be done as a last resort measure, although you should take into account the possibility of data theft if you have a lot of sensitive material such as credit card numbers and bank account details. You should always have a backup of your sensitive data somewhere safe. Laptops are not necessarily the best candidates for that.
Combine all three of these, and the likelihood that you will suffer from theft drops enormously. Remember, theft prevention is all about contingency. Even if you try everything to stop it, there’s still a chance it will happen. By that point it is good to have an execution plan when things go sour.
Have any more tips? Talk about it below in the comments!