Computer theft is a big concern in both the corporate and the government sectors, as well as in the consumer space. Today’s computers are often equipped with very large hard drives that can store an extremely large amount of data.
Once a computer is stolen, the thief can easily access the hard drive to extract sensitive personal or company information, personal documents, pictures, and videos belonging to the computer’s owner, and other important data. This stolen data can then be sold on the Internet to cybercriminals that carry out identity theft or other illegal and harmful acts. There have even been cases where files from a stolen computer were later used by the thief to blackmail the computer’s owner.
It’s often difficult to prevent computer theft. Computers can be stolen during robberies and burglaries, lifted out of bags when the owner is not looking, stolen out of cars, or through countless other ways. Here are three important things that every computer owner should do to mitigate the negative effects of a possible future theft of their computer:
Record the serial number of your computer and keep it in a safe place
Computer thieves often attempt to fence their stolen goods at a pawn shop to convert their ill-gotten gains into cash. Fortunately, most pawn shops enter the serial numbers of electronics that they purchase into a database that is available to law enforcement. If your computer is ever stolen, make sure that you notify law enforcement of the incident and provide them with a description of the computer and its serial number. They may be able to recover your laptop if it’s been sold through a pawn shop.
Regularly back up your data to a separate storage device
One of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of losing something that you will never be able to get back. If you have sensitive documents, family photos, or other important data that you cannot part with, make sure they’re regularly backed up separate from the computer. If the computer gets stolen, you’ll still have access to those important files. Many solutions exist nowadays that make this process cheap and easy. Even backing those files up on a free Dropbox or Google Drive account is better than losing them forever.
Install Whole Disk Encryption on your computer
The best way to prevent a thief from rummaging through your personal files is by encrypting the hard drive. Once the hard drive is encrypted, the thief will not be able to access anything on the computer without the correct password. There are many commercial products on the market that provide whole disk encryption, however most Operating Systems have a built in solution that can be used for free.
Consider encrypting your hard drive with one of the following options:
FileVault was introduced with Mac OS X Panther (10.3) and is available in all releases since 10.3.
BitLocker is available in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. It is also available in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 and 8.1.