How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft
Laptops are expensive, but also a very vulnerable piece of technology. Their portability is what makes them so practical, but it also makes them one of the main targets of theft.
You might have to go to the toilet or you simply forget your laptop case in a bar. Chances are that by the time you come back a thief has already taken advantage of the situation.
But I bring some good news; you can finally stop worrying about your laptop being stolen by implementing these 10 simple security measures:
Physically secure your laptop
1. Mark your laptop
Marking your laptop goes a long way to identifying it in case it gets stolen. I can also deter some thieves who’d rather steal a laptop with no identification marks.
It’s best to use a combination of two strategies:
First, mark your laptop on a visible, external spot. Use a difficult to remove sticker, or even better, engrave a symbol, or your initials.
Secondly, I recommend engraving your name, contact and address on the inside of the laptop. The battery compartment or another less visible area should be used for this purpose.
You can use any sharp object to do this, or if you want it to look better use an electric engraver pen.
You don’t want the thief to find out about these inside marks, otherwise they’ll pay extra attention to concealing the laptop and you might never have the chance to identify it.
2. Avoid using a laptop carrying case
Avoid the obvious laptop carrying case that makes your laptop an obvious target while you’re o the move. It’s better to conceal your valuable piece of technology in a regular backpack or a nondescript soft laptop case.
The best solution is to use a secure laptop backpack which has lockable compartments, which make it impossible to remove your laptop and other belongings without knowing the lock combination.
You could also place your laptop in the secure laptop backpack and lock the backpack with a chain to an immovable object, if you have to leave it somewhere for a few minutes.
Pro tip: This slick, anti-theft laptop backpack from Amazon is extremely popular. It’s waterproof, has combination locks, roomy compartments and even usb ports for charging electronic devices while you’re on the go. Plus, it’s under $40 and has over 5000 user reviews.
3. Use a laptop security lock
Most laptop’s have a universal security slot, also known as USS. It’s basically a hole into which you can connect a security cable. You can use this cable to secure the laptop to an object or a security device.
Most people use it to secure the laptop to their work desk. It can especially come in handy if you use your laptop in the library and other open areas like Starbucks. Unless the thief manages to cut the cable, they won’t be able to steal the laptop.
This method is similar to locking your bicycle to a pole, except that it’s more secure. Because if there are people around, no one will try to cut through a tough security cable in an indoor area.
Pro tip: The RUBAN lock and security cable is the best solution. It’s a tough metal lock and 6.2. ft long universal security cable. They can be used for securing a notebook, laptop and PC. It comes with two lock keys.
4. Be mindful of your surroundings
Even if all of the security methods mentioned above are implemented, you should still pay attention to your environment.
Leaving your expensive laptop in Starbucks to go to the bathroom is generally okay if you use a security cable. But if there are some strange people moving around don’t feel embarrassed to take it with you.
If you’re traveling through crowded areas pay attention to who’s behind you and if they’re acting strange. These are the situations where a secure backpack really helps. Because it’s highly unlikely that someone could crack the lock AND remove the laptop from the backpack on the move and without anyone noticing.
5. Ask someone to watch your laptop
This is only possible in some situations. But let’s say you carry your laptop to the library and you know a few people there.
You can ask them to watch out for your belongings for a few minutes if you have to take a leak or make a phone call.
Obviously it’s not 100% ideal because they could just forget about it or be distracted by something, but it’s still better than nothing.
6. Don’t walk away from your laptop
The 100% ideal situation is to never walk away from your laptop. EVER. Always keep it with you and keep an eye on it.
Can it be done? Yes, but it can get annoying quickly, and people will think you’re strange.. or even cheap, because you care so much about your precious laptop. But who cares? If someone steals it they probably won’t stand in line to buy you a new one.
7. Track down your stolen laptop
If your laptop is already in the hands of the bad guys, you might be able to track it down. If they use a service like Gmail or Dropbox from your account on the stolen laptop. These services keep track of the IP address that’s used to access them.
So you can find the last IP address that was used and potentially track down the thief. In Gmail, it’s in the bottom right-hand corner under “Details,” and in Dropbox, it’s in Settings > Security under the details of each individual computer.
However, this isn’t a quick process. You’d still need to call the police, send a subpoena to that IP address’s Internet provider and find out their location. All of this can take weeks or even months in some cases and there’s no guarantee that they’ll find your laptop.
I don’t suggest risking your life and trying to get justice on your own, because you never know what a trapped thief is capable of and you could end up being the bad guy at the end of it.
It sucks, I know! Which is why it’s better to think ahead and use the recommended security measures to prevent this from happening.
Secure data on your laptop
Even if you physically secure your laptop, your data could still be stolen. For example, if you secure the laptop with a cable and a lock, a thief could still use the laptop and steal your information or upload a virus with a USB stick or a CD.
By the way, this is the reason why a secure laptop backpack is valuable, since it prevents any physical contact from occurring as long as the laptop is locked inside. Even so, using these data security tips is still a great idea:
7. Set an admin password on your laptop
Setting up a login password will prevent anyone who doesn’t know it from using the operating system.
If the laptop has been idle for a period of time or at startup, you have to insert the password, otherwise the only option is to shut down or restart the device. You can set this on Windows 10 without downloading anything. But you might need to download a program that allows you to do this for other operating systems.
I have an active login password on my laptop at all times. I don’t like anyone snooping in on my data, including family members. It was annoying the first few times I had to insert it. But now it’s become a routine and I don’t think twice about it.
9. Secure your WiFi network
This isn’t always possible, but you can at least secure the WiFi network at home or in you own company.
This will prevent hackers from collecting your data or planting malware without them even having to touch your laptop.
I wrote a detailed step-by-step guide you can follow to do this correctly.
10. Backup your data often
This is useful if your laptop gets stolen, dies of old age, or you need to reinstall your operating system. There are many ways to do this:
- Back up to an external drive – This is an old school method that is still favored by many people. If you have an external USB hard drive, you can simply copy the data from your computer unto it. Different operating systems require different copying procedures, but these can be easily found on Google. The benefits of this method are that it’s cheap and you don’t have to use an intermediary service to store your data. For example, this portable external hard drive has 4 terabytes storage capacity and it’s under $100! An external hard drive can also improve computer performance and make it run faster. However, the main downside is that external hard drive can also be stolen, lost or destroyed in a fire for example. It’s not a viable solution for securing data if you plan on taking it with you together with your laptop when travelling. It’s best to use it in separate locations once you do perform the backup in order to minimize the chance of them both being stolen or damaged at the same time.
- Back up over the Internet – The best service for Internet backups is Backblaze. For a small monthly fee it can automatically perform daily backups for you and store a lot of data for you.
- Use a Cloud Storage Service – Instead of backing up data on a hard drive, you can use safe cloud storage services. One downside is that they only allow a few gigabytes of free storage space and you have to pay for more space. But it’s a good idea for making copies of your most important data. The most popular free services are Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
On Securing a Laptop from Theft
Combining a couple of these methods will definitely minimize the chances of your laptop being stolen. Implement the ones that you think are the most practical for your situation. After a few days, using them will become normal and you’ll do it without having to think about them at all. Hope this helps!