With this increase in popularity and usage, laptop theft can however become a real problem. The prominence of mobile devices has encouraged laptop manufacturers to create lighter, thinner devices such as Ultrabooks and detachable laptop-tablet hybrids, which makes laptop theft even easier and could potentially lead to an increase in the number of reported identity theft cases.
Protection and security are important aspects of the computing industry for both commercial and consumer users and there are a number of ways to prevent your laptop from being stolen and to protect your personal data. This guide aims to give solutions and advice about laptop theft and will cover some of the major concerns and questions you may have.
Where are laptops most commonly stolen?
Many people take precautions when leaving their laptop away from their person such as storing it in a laptop locker, out of sight and hiding it in an unusual location. A large proportion of people do not take such safeguards however and the majority of laptop thefts generally occur in very open or obvious places:
- Left in vehicles, taxis, trains and other forms of public transport
- Kept in businesses/offices
- Placed to one side in hotels
- Left on tables at universities and colleges
- At airport luggage storage areas, terminals, restaurants and security check points
What high profile sensitive data thefts have occurred recently?
There have been a number of high profile laptop theft cases over the past few years, highlighting the potential danger of sensitive personal data being stolen. In the past couple of years, a NASA laptop was stolen which contained unencrypted employee data. This was a major concern as the laptop contained the personal data of over 10,000 NASA employees and contractors, data which could have been easily accessed due to the hard drive not being completely encrypted.
In 2012 an Edinburgh city council laptop was stolen from the home of a consultant on the fostering panel which contained details of vulnerable children. Again the data was not secure, demonstrating the fact that many industries dealing with sensitive information do not always take the necessary security precautions or explain security best practices to all of their staff.
What are the best ways to avoid laptop theft?
Laptop theft happens in locations where we are sat down and using them the most but it also happens when we are travelling. Thieves may be more likely to take a device when it is stored in a normal laptop case, rather than one securely placed in a laptop security case where gaining access to the device is much more difficult. These cases provide laptops with added security whilst also offering storage for other small portable devices, meaning that your laptop will be safer when travelling and away from the office. If you do tend to leave your laptop in a business room or an office for the majority of the day then a secure laptop safe may be best, particularly if you have more than one computing device.
What if my laptop has been stolen?
There are a number of security and tracking software packages you can install on your laptop which are specifically designed to help in the recovery of stolen devices. Some software packages even include webcam functionality which takes a photo of the next person to open your laptop, silently capturing an image of their face once you have notified the software company that your laptop has been stolen. The information gathered from laptop security software can build a more detailed picture of where the device is and who is using it, which can then be reported to the local authorities.
What passwords best protect my data?
It is recommended that you always make a backup of your data whether you use a physical, portable hard drive or secure cloud-based storage. However you back up your data, one thing of which you should make sure is to not use the same password to access multiple accounts. Some passwords can be cracked reasonably easily, especially if you use real words or phrases, and once a thief has worked out your initial password they will be able to access your sensitive information across many different sites and platforms.
The majority of the time a computer will be running algorithms to work out what your password is so changing between numbers, letters, and symbols is a great way of ensuring you create a strong password. Changing certain letters such as A, E, I and O to 4, 3, ! and 0 can make your password much harder to work out – for example, instead of using the password ‘safeshop2014’, you could change it to ‘S4f3sh0p2014’. Another method is to use memorable phrases such as ‘I bought my first car in 1994’ and create a password using the first letter of each word, like this: ‘Ibmfci1994’.
The information we store on laptops and mobile devices is a gold mine for potential thieves, who are sometimes not only interested in selling the device itself but also the personal or company information stored on it. Being more aware of our surroundings and securely storing our devices helps to reduce the risk of laptop and identity theft.