Decrypt This - By Chris Stobing
 
Home > Computing > How to make life harder for laptop thieves

How to make life harder for laptop thieves

Another day, another temporary workspace set up at the local Starbucks. You’re a few hours into that latest screenplay, and as it does when the caffeine is flowing, nature calls, and the bathroom is just a short hop away. Upon returning to the makeshift desk at the corner of the coffee shop, your eyes dart from the table, to the counter, to the floor. Your heart drops into your stomach.

It was just there. I was only gone for a minute. How could they take it without anyone else noticing?

If you’re one of the 150,000 people who will have their laptop pilfered this year, you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about. As portable computers get more expensive and their value on the black market continues to skyrocket thieves are looking to these devices as one of their prime ways of making quick cash by grabbing goods right off your desk, out of your bag, or through the window of your car.

Gone are the days of little old ladies losing their purses, and these are the top five ways you can protect your laptop from being lifted in 2014.

Physical Cable Lock

The first and most formidable line of defense anyone can turn to when trying to keep their mobile devices from moving where they left them, also happens to be the same strategy that a 12-year old utilizes on their bikes every morning before school: lock it up.

Related: The best encryption options for the average user

Out of all the available options currently on the market, we like the Datamation Screen Lock the best. Because the lock is held in place with a hardened metal plate attached to the back of the screen itself, and unlike other similar USB port solutions, this cable won’t be letting go without a fight.

laptoplock

We prefer the screen-style lock because it doesn’t require a specific piece of hardware that attaches on the bottom of your device such as those sold from Kensington, which can add unnecessary bulkiness and weight whenever you’re on the go. With that said, though, an increasing number of laptops have Kensington lock loops built in, which makes this a very valid option.

Laptop locks are certainly nothing new, but they still offer a foolproof way to keep your computer where it belongs; on your desk and out of the hands of the criminal underbelly. The downside, of course, is portability. This solution only really works at home or at an office.

Biometric USB Device

Although it’s already a staple security feature on most higher-end laptops these days, you’ll find that a biometric USB lock is still a great way to keep your files and software safe from anyone who might try to steal your secrets while you’re away.

There are a couple different options available if you decide to go this route, but we found that the best balance of price and functionality came from the Verifi P5100. The USB fingerprint reader can be attached to a number of different software solutions to keep your OS from being breached, and all the settings contained within will stay locked to your personal preferences.

The unique identifier of your thumb can also be linked to your online passwords, preventing thieves from getting into your email, finding out your financial logins, or digging through your social media sites without your permission first.

Related: New touchpad features embedded fingerprint reader

You might think device won’t prevent theft, but as with most crimes the perpetrator is often someone you know or who, at least, knows you. Using a biometric lock can discourage theft because anyone scoping your PC will know it’ll be useless once stolen.

The Verifi P5100 can be yours for only $149.00 out the door.

Laptop Alarm

Laptop alarms are a great method for preventing the loss of a dearly loved laptop. They work on the same principle as their car-based counterparts, setting off loud, ear-splitting screeches whenever activated that make it impossible for a burglar to make off with your mobile device without drawing an inordinate amount of attention to themselves in the process.

One of our favorite entries into this category is the Targus DEFCON 1, a laptop alarm that also doubles as a security measure for luggage, golf bags, or any cases designed to keep your prized possessions travel-ready at any time.

targusdefcon1

These can also be linked to your laptop case, so whenever the two are separated by more than 20 feet the alarm is triggered, and can’t be shut off until the proper code is entered.

The Targus also has the benefit of functioning as a semi-cable lock, though the hole is so small that only the thinnest of cables can be strung through it. For this reason we can’t recommend it as a strong enough lock on its own, but purely as a motion-detection noisemaker, this alarm can’t be beat.

Lockboxes

If the all out approach is more your style, the Tuffy Laptop Lockup Box is definitely the best bet. Unlike standard laptop cases which are usually flimsy enough to be opened with a few cuts of a knife, the Tuffy Laptop Box is a full-fledged metal safe that can store your device behind an eighth of an inch of solid metal.

tuffylockbox

A Tuffy gives its owners peace of mind by providing an in-case keypad lock and an extra loop that will fit any standard combo or key padlocks you have. This extra dash of security is a big plus in our book, and means that no one’s getting to your stuff without employing the help of industrial bolt cutters, at the very least.

It’s a bit of extra weight to be carrying around unless you really need it (the box weighs 20lbs before it’s even loaded up), but short of an all-in-one steel-plated solution, you won’t find anything safer than this. A lockbox is a particularly good choice for folks traveling by car, as the box can be secured in the car, and it also keeps the laptop out of sight (thus discouraging theft).

You can pick up the Tuffy Lockup Box for $189 today.

Prey Pro

When all else fails, there’s always a slew of software solutions ready to back you up in case of the worst possible scenario.

On the digital side of things, we can’t get enough of Prey Pro, a software suite that offers monitoring and recovery services in conjunction. Prey lets you check in on your laptop via your mobile phone from anywhere in the world, and will alert you the minute it leaves a designated area or is signed out of a pre-established WiFi network.

Related: How to track your cell phone

A subscription fee of $15 a month will cover 10 devices in total, with a sliding scale available from there for larger businesses and enterprise solutions.

Lock it down

These are just a few of the dozens of different inventive and preventive ways to keep your laptop safe and off the streets. By utilizing one, a few, or all of these solutions in concert with one another, you can be sure that your laptop never leaves your side. Whether it’s screeching alarms, covert briefcases, or automatic email services, you’ll always know where your device is, and whether someone else is trying to snag it before you can say double whipped soy macchiato three times fast.

Image Credit: Konstontin Kolosov/Shutterstock, Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock, Yetzt/Wikimedia