keep your laptop from becoming another Christmas crime statistic
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
December 16-22, 2008; issue 999
High Tech Office column
is a busy travel season. For many of us that means packing a laptop.
The result: peak time for travel also becomes peak time for laptop
theft. According to Vancouver-based Absolute Software
, a laptop goes
missing every 50 seconds at U.S. airports. An estimated 12,000 a week
are lost by business travellers alone.
The company – which makes LoJack and Computrace laptop recovery
software – suggests that holiday travellers:
up data before travelling. Absolute’s Lyle Singular notes that the
business and personal data stored on our laptops makes them much more
valuable to us than just the cost of replacing a piece of hardware.
your laptop in your possession at all times – preferably within arm’s
length. Don’t put it in your checked luggage, carry it with you onto
the plane. Onboard, store it in an overhead compartment if you have use
of the one over your seat. If not, keep it with you at your seat.
Keep it with you as long as possible when going through airport
security and when you’re not holding it keep an eye on it. If you see
someone starting to pick it up, don’t be afraid to yell! (Singular
suggests, however, that most laptops lost at security are the result of
the owners walking away and leaving them behind.)
are lost when, after leaving the airport, people drive to a restaurant
or other busy destination, then lock the laptop in the trunk after they
park the car. A better practice, according to Singular, is to put it in
the trunk before driving off, avoiding surveillance by thieves watching
busy parking lots. Even better: take it into the restaurant with you.
the hotel, lock it up – in your room safe or at the front desk. If you
need to chain it to a piece of furniture, make sure its attached to
something solid – bathroom fixtures are often good this way. Singular
notes that old-style motels with exterior doors are more easily burgled
than modern hotels, but that thieves can follow hotel cleaners, popping
into opened doors.
• Be wary of public computers such as those
in airports, libraries and hotels; they might be infested with key
logging software, allowing identity thieves to keep records of every
keystroke to collect usernames, passwords, account numbers and the
like. Therefore, avoid accessing financial or bank records.
a public computer – or even on your own laptop – uncheck “remember me”
settings when logging into websites. If your laptop is set to
automatically log in and it gets lost, the new owner has just gained
access to your accounts.
•Before exiting a web browser, clear
your private data: cache, history, cookies and the like. (Or consider
using a portable version of Firefox or other browser stored on a USB
key – then when you leave (assuming you remember the USB key), your
private data leaves with you.)
Security, according to Singular,
is like a three-legged stool – it takes all three legs to stay upright.
In this case, the three legs are data protection – encryption, data
destruction in case of loss and theft recovery. Absolute, not
surprisingly, recommends its LoJack and Computrace products, which can
remotely wipe data from a stolen laptop’s hard drive and can trace a
lost or stolen system, aiding in its recovery.
In the end,
though, Singular suggests that in order to avoid having your laptop
become another holiday statistic, you need to stay aware and stay
focused. During busy Christmas travelling periods that can be
difficult; when our timelines are tight, we’re under extra pressure.
And that makes us easy targets for criminals when we’re most distracted.
Happy high-tech holidays. •