Your laptop is a liability

You got up early this morning to catch your flight, but your taxi still got stuck in traffic. After checking in (thank God for electronic check in!), you’re now stuck at the security check behind someone who evidently decided storing metal objects in his pockets was a good idea. So there you are, carry on sitting on the conveyor belt on its way to be x-rayed while you wait in line. In your socks.

When you finally make it through the security checkpoint, you pick up your carry on, put on your shoes, and then it hits you: your laptop bag is nowhere to be seen. The pieces fall into place quickly: the man ahead of you was purposefully stalling you while an accomplice stole your computer.

Hopefully, you’re not a spy with sensitive intelligence, nor is your laptop your single copy of your life’s work of NASA research. Every week, 12,000 laptops disappear from airports alone. Simply put, your laptop is a security risk: its mobility is its greatest advantage, but it’s also its bane where theft is concerned.

So you can you prevent theft? First and foremost, try not to attract attention to your laptop. Instead of toting it around in a laptop bag that screams “valuable electronic equipment inside”, try using something less conspicuous, such as a briefcase. When you are working with it in a public place such as Starbucks and must leave its side, even if it’s “just to get another cup of coffee, I’ll be right back”, secure your laptop with a lock, such as those sold by Kensington. Just be sure to realize that such a lock will only delay a thief, it is not foolproof security! It will, however prevent a coffee-loving kleptomaniac from simply walking away with your machine. There are many tips to avoid laptop theft, the most effective probably being: keep your laptop by your side at all times, in a manner where it can’t simply be snatched.

Instead of getting bogged down with advice that basically boils down to common sense, let’s assume the worst happened: your laptop is stolen, gone. What now? Unless it is insured, the hardware cost will be lost. That, however, is the least of your worries: what about your data? There are two main issues pertaining to data on a stolen laptop, namely

  1. could the thief possible have access to it?
  2. can I restore my data on another machine?

Both will be equally important.

Having your laptop stolen is unfortunate, but having your bank account raided thanks to confidential information your laptop contains, is worse. Or maybe the thief will blackmail you with some information you would rather not make public? Chances are, if you have (or “had” as the case may be…) a laptop, you use it to produce valuable content, be it for your day job, or hobbies you are passionate about. And more likely than not, you’d be ecstatic if you could simply continue where you left off before “the incident”.

So how should these issues be addressed?

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