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A safety drill when your laptop is stolen

By Riaan Lombard - 15 April 2021


Many people have fallen victim to crime with their laptops disappearing from a coffee shop table, grabbed from a passenger seat through freshly broken glass, or leaving their homes with a stranger visiting to do some afterhours shopping. Don’t forget about remote jamming leaving the trunk of your car ripe for the picking. In many cases, the loss of the actual laptop is less heart-breaking than the loss of work done on it..
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Step 1: Prevention is better than cure - This is easier said than done. No-one plans to be robbed of their pos-sessions. We do however get comfortable and forget to check the basics. Make a habit of checking that your car is locked when parking it in a public space. Research shows that it takes a remote jammer 20 seconds to nab a note-book from a car. Of these 20 seconds, 15 are spent waiting for the owner to enter the shopping centre. Take 5 sec-onds to ensure that your vehicle is locked. The broken record also says “keep it off the passenger seat”.


When leaving your home, make sure that your notebook is locked away in a safe place. Your insurance company is more likely to process your claim if you can prove all possible measures were taken to safeguard your devices. Coffee shops are also hotspots for grabbing notebooks Put your leg through the strap of your notebook bag, or rest your feet on it. This might sound very basic, but will draw your attention to the perpetrator immediately.


Step 2: Act fast to block access - In yesteryear, mobile device theft had one goal: making a quick buck by sell-ing it as quickly as possible. Times have changed and so has the focus of this type of attack. There is still a buck to be made by selling the device, but the big bucks lie in selling the data. Your first defence method for protecting data on your laptop should be implementing Bitlocker encryption. This software protects the data on your device from unauthorised access by firstly prompting for a password or pin before the Operating System is even loaded, and secondly, not allowing for copying of data to external media if this option is enabled.


If Bitlocker was not enabled, you need to have your IT person on speed dial. Your immediate steps are to reset all your individual passwords to applications that may store customer data. Storing data on the cloud is great, but it also means that it can be accessed from anywhere, and changes are synced everywhere. Your best defence is to have your cloud storage application linked to all your mobile devices so that you can change the password from any one of them. Be careful though: you need to make sure that those devices are all password protected.


Step 3: Inform the powers that be - Although you might feel silly for being remote jammed, or feel worried about “what is my boss going to say”, you need to inform the relevant parties. The digital era we are living in en-courages interconnectivity of all devices. Unfortunately, this also means that a small thing such as a notebook be-ing stolen, can place an entire organisation at risk. Bite the bullet and inform your IT department, direct manager, security group, and whoever else forms part of your security protocol. It is a good idea to revisit your companies’ security protocol regularly to ensure that emergency contact numbers, security officer details, and information manager details are updated and readily available.


If you do not have such a policy or document in place, it might be a good idea to draft one now. Communicate it to all members of staff who make use of mobile devices that contain information that should be protected.