Best Practices: Protect Laptops From Theft

Reprinted with permission from TigerTech's Bits and Bytes. Information courtesy of the MU Police Department.

Theft is the most common crime on campus. Most items are stolen from unlocked vehicles or unattended rooms. Over 90 percent of all thefts from campus buildings last year involved unlocked rooms, according to the MU Police Department. Some helpful tips can help to prevent the theft of your laptop.

  • Get a lock and use it. Over 80 percent of the laptops on the market have a Universal Security Slot (USS) that allows the computer to be attached to a cable lock or laptop alarm. Locks and alarms can be purchased at computer and office supply stores. Get a good lock and secure it properly to something that cannot be moved.
  • Back up your data. Always back up your data, either by using departmentally recommended storage space or by saving files to CDs or hard drives and storing them in a separate, secure location.
  • Use a generic carrying case. Your laptop bag with Dell printed on the side advertises that you have expensive equipment on you. Laptops can be carried in backpacks or other nondescript carriers. Always keep an eye on your bag.
  • Don't get too comfortable! Just because you always study in the same place does not mean that other people cannot go to those areas. Assigned cubicles are not secure. Leaving your laptop on the table in the library when you run to the bathroom is a sure way to get your laptop stolen. Thieves target these areas and will wait hours to find an unattended laptop. Laptops are most likely to disappear from libraries and study areas.
  • Engrave your laptop. Use an engraver to etch your name or other identifying marks into your laptop.  It’s harder to resell a stolen laptop with someone else’s name or a big scratched out area plainly visible.
  • Consider painting your laptop. Make your laptop stand out. People may not remember seeing a black Compaq laptop computer, but they might remember if it has zebra stripes or a huge spider painted on it.
  • Lock your laptop in the trunk. If you have to leave your laptop in your car, store it out of sight in the trunk.
  • Consider buying tracking software. Stolen laptops can be electronically tracked and recovered. Some systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and others use a software tracking code that will call a central location through the Internet.
  • Encrypt your data. If DCS level 4 data must be stored on a mobile device, the data must be encrypted in transit and at rest.

Last updated: August 06, 2014