Paranoia Refresher – Laptop Theft

The weekend of the 7th of February I was at a security professionals conference. (Shmoocon) Yes it is a hacker convention, but it is a great place to learn about higher level security issues that affect people. It also refreshed my mind on some basic ideas of security. Many times the security talks that are presented are simply not useful for the average person. That being said it did raise the level of paranoia I have about computer security in general.

Another reminder that added to this was the theft of two different laptops. The laptop was left unattended for what ever reason and sprouted legs and walked away. The other reminder was from a parked car with a laptop in the back seat. A brick though the window and the laptop disappears.

I won’t go into the data security on this blog post but suffice it to say these were crimes of opportunity. It is extremely easy to have a laptop walk away in a crowded restaurant. So on to the security of laptops

If you have a laptop in your car, in a crowded parking lot, put the laptop in your trunk. As simple as that. If a thief can’t see the laptop it is harder to steal. In a restaurant, if you make your laptop even remotely difficult to steal it will be pushed to the bottom of the list to be stolen. In a crowded environment where you might get up to get coffee or use the restroom lock your laptop to the table. This does require a slight investment of anywhere from $8 (US) on up depending on how secure you want it (I will not go into the exceptionally simple methods shown in the lock pick village to defeat a lock). In the case of the person’s laptop being stolen in a restaurant, even the cheapest lock would have prevented this theft.

When a laptop is sitting on a table, no one will think twice about someone walking buy and grabbing it. If a bolt cutters, or even lock picks is brought out to cut a cable lock that will bring attention. A thief will avoid attention at all costs. There is a very important element to this scenario, LOCK the laptop don’t just make it look like it is.

I personally have not ever seen a laptop that does not have a locking port on the side of the laptop. So please use it!!


Lock your physical laptop when leaving it in public

Do not leave your laptop in plain site in your car

4 Comments to “Paranoia Refresher – Laptop Theft”

  1. By Joe Garcia, February 18, 2010 @ 12:37 PM

    Great post Anthony!

    I would add one thing though when putting your laptop into the trunk of your car. Try to do it before you reach your destination, especially if it is in a less populated or trafficked area. That way, they wouldn’t know your laptop was in there to begin with.

    I guess you could consider that security through obscurity.

  2. By admin, February 18, 2010 @ 2:31 PM

    I totally agree, put the hardware in the trunk before you leave, not when you arrive.

  3. By hank, July 31, 2011 @ 2:38 PM

    >I personally have not ever seen a laptop that does not have a locking port

    “Neither of the current MacBook Air models have a security port …”

  4. By Anthony Gartner, July 31, 2011 @ 7:17 PM

    i agree… the current versions do not have a lock port, however when the article was written the current models were not in the marketplace. I am 100% sure that there are other machines that do not have them as well. I don’t know of any but there are alternate methods to lock a machine including whole disk encryption in Lion, and memory keys that will give an audible alarm. There are lots of ways if you don’t have this particular security measure.

    Thanks for reminding me that it is not an absolute. And thanks for visiting.

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