Having something of yours stolen can be one of the worst feelings in the world. Even more so when that particular item contains your personal information. These days we keep more and more of our personal data on our electronics. My iPhone, for example, has at least five apps on it that have direct access to my financial and social accounts. What’s more concerning is that I’m not alone. Some of the most popular apps on the iOS platform revolve around maintaining and tracking various financial accounts — not to even mention all the contact information for various people I do business with on a frequent basis.
Even if you don’t have your personal data on your electronics, what about everyday items in your home? Your PC, laptop, Blu-ray player, microwave, and even your printer have value to would-be thieves. Within five minutes, your home can be cleared of enough valuables to fill a truck. Electronics are especially popular as they are usually fairly easy to transport and sell. How do you protect yourself from being left high and dry?
Here are some tips to help you protect your electronics from theft.
LoJack has been a leading name in automotive theft protection for years. Did you know that LoJack also makes products that can protect your laptop and desktop computers? Furthermore, did you know that LoJack has a service that helps you reunite with your lost or stolen mp3 player, mobile phone, portable DVD player, etc.?
LoJack’s software gives you the ability to track, lock, remotely delete, and has a dedicated Theft Recovery Team to help you get your stolen property back? LoJack for Laptops installs cleanly on systems with Windows or OS X installed and goes to work right away. Device Lock, a feature of LoJack for Laptops, allows you to remotely lock your system and display a custom message for whomever might be accessing your equipment. This message could be your contact information, a reward offer, or anything else you’d want to have displayed on your laptop.
For everything else, there’s LoJack ReuniteIT. While this may be more of a lost and found feature, these tamper-resistant labels make it possible for the police or a good Samaritan to get your gear back to you. Everything from mp3 players to bicycles can be tagged, registered, and put into a massive database that has the sole purpose of reuniting people with their lost belongings.
Adding an electronics rider to your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance can mean the difference between starting over and being capable of replacing your valuables. Most insurance policies cover electronics, though you may want to take a close look at the policy to make sure you’re not hit with a per-claim limit for electronic devices. Even with $10,000 of electronics coverage, I was surprised to find out that a single claim had a ceiling of $2,000. A rider (an extra clause added to a standard policy) can be a huge help in these cases.
Also to this point, you should consider creating a Google Doc or an Evernote entry listing out everything of value in your home, its serial number, date purchased, and price. This will come in handy if you should ever need to file a claim with your insurance company. Scan receipts, take photos of each item, and store this information in two places (including the cloud) so you’re sure to have it when the need arises.
Eva Brown, a Gnomie and active member of the LockerGnome community, suggested: “I have a Kensington cable that will attach to my laptop that comes with optional hardware to mount it to a desk.” she continued, “It has a combination lock that the user can set to whatever combination.”
Most laptops made by major manufacturers today come with a tiny Kensington Security Slot, which is a fairly universal anti-theft device that allows you to secure your portable computer to a desk. This eliminates the need you might have for walking around the office with your laptop everywhere you go.
Even in otherwise secure offices, it can be easy for someone to be lured into a false sense of security. Large companies have outside visitors on a regular basis, and it’s easy for someone to walk in with a large group, grab a laptop off a desk, and walk right out without alerting any suspicions at all.
Bob Morris, another member of the Gnomies, recommends: “I protect my iPhone the old-fashioned way. It stays in my fanny pack when I’m not using it. The fanny pack is attached to me when I’m outside. So it can’t get stolen and/or lost.”
Todd Nystrom suggests, “My iPhone is set so if someone tries to unlock it with the wrong code five times, it deletes everything!”
Cody Houston recommends, “The NetQin suite is a great set of tools for Android-based phones for security.” After looking into it, we discovered that NetQin works on Android, BlackBerry, and the Windows Phone platforms. It specializes in protecting these devices from malware and other malicious scripts that can put your sensitive data at risk. After all, data theft is big business.
Register Your Purchases
This might not sound immediately useful, but registering your product purchases with the manufacturer establishes a line of ownership. Not only that, but some companies will help police locate stolen goods as they phone home with the IP address and serial number of the device whenever it is connected to the Web.
In 2007, Dateline NBC and Chris Hansen did a special report where they tracked down stolen iPods using the registration information readily provided by the thieves themselves as they attempted to activate iPods that they had stolen that very day. The investigation was nearly 10 for 10 tracking down would-be thieves as they willingly gave up their personal information to register the devices they had stolen.
Sure, your device might be stolen and the thief may have taken off with your gear. At the very least, you can make sure your data is safe. TrueCrypt is an excellent hard drive encryption solution that is open source and absolutely free. Using it, you can keep your sensitive data encrypted and practically invisible to anyone who doesn’t already know about it.
The downside of any total drive encryption is a slight dip in performance. Personally, I haven’t seen this with TrueCrypt, but if you need to get the most out of your gear, this might be worth mentioning.
Hardware level encryption is also a good thing, especially on portable hard drives and other devices.