How Can I Lock My Laptop To Keep It From Being Stolen?

May 9, 2009

in computer hardware,privacy & security

by David Hakala

Thousands of laptop computers are stolen each year. It’s not uncommon for a brazen thief to simply snatch a laptop right out from under the nose of its owner in a coffee shop and run out the door. So it’s not surprising that many anti-theft solutions have been developed for laptops.

A keyed cable lock tethers a laptop to a table leg or other sturdy object. It locks into the standard Kensington Security Slot found on 99 percent of laptops. Yes, you can now go to a public rest room without your laptop. But a cable lock is of no use when you are carrying the laptop around. You need a portable “lock” that ties your laptop to you.

A mobile proximity alarm consists of two small devices, one in your pocket and the other attached to your laptop. The devices communicate with each other via radio waves. If you and your laptop get too far apart a very loud alarm (up to 110 decibels) sounds from the laptop’s attached device. The distance at which the alarm is triggered can be set from a few feet up to about 10 yards.

A more sophisticated proximity alarm made by Caveo protects your laptop against unauthorized use even if a thief gets away with it. Based on a PC Card, such devices sound an alarm and blink bright LED lights rapidly to draw unwanted attention to a thief if the laptop moves too far away from you. But the card also blocks access to the laptop’s operating system so the machine is useless to a thief. Passwords, encryption keys, and other sensitive information can be stored on the card in an encrypted form that only you can access.

If a thief gets away with your laptop and is able to use it, there is still a way to recover the laptop and/or render it useless remotely. Laptop Anti-Theft is one software program that hides in the background of your running laptop and “calls for help” if the machine is stolen. When a thief connects to the Internet, the software uses the current IP address and other network information to pinpoint the laptop’s actual location. The software then sends a stealthy email to the laptop’s owner saying, “I’m here, send the cops!” Other similar programs let you lock down the laptop remotely.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at