6 tips to protect your mobile devices from theft
These days, it seems that just about everybody uses a laptop, tablet or mobile phone to get work done away from the office, home or on the road. Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of mobile computing has made these portable systems an easy target for theft.
What would you do if your laptop computer was stolen? What if someone gains access to your files while your back is turned, swipes your company information—not to mention your personal and financial data. We've seen corporate hacks and celebrity photo leaks — but what if your data was exposed?
Use these 6 tips to learn how you can help protect your mobile devices while you're on the road.
1. Don't use obvious computer bags
Nothing says "steal me" like a padded gray bag, with a thick shoulder strap and a computer company logo blazing on the side. Try not to make it so obvious that you're carrying a tablet or laptop. Instead, try a laptop purse bag, backpack or a messenger. And there are a great variety of briefcases if you want something traditional, just make sure it doesn't scream LAPTOP! Another no-no, don't leave your tablet or laptop sticking out the side flaps or panels, with them unzipped and un-fastened. You never know who's watching.
Today there are so many great options that can give you a sense of fashion, protection for your device and mobility that anyone can find the perfect bag for their lifestyle. And with online shipping even if there's not a store in your immediate geography you can have your dream bag shipped to your home or office.
2. Use strong passwords, and do not keep them with your device
In spite of the frequent news about hacks, leaks and identify thefts many people still use 1234 and abcd as passwords .. seriously. Strong passwords that are difficult to break or guess can reduce the likelihood of thieves gaining access to your valuable files and even taking over your operating system. Microsoft offers some tips on creating strong passwords on their safety and security center. You also want to follow this practice for your ATM cards, WIFI and other information that you value.
You can make it more difficult for a thief to access your corporate or personal data by not keeping your password with your device, and creating a multitude of strong passwords. And there are some some really affordable products that can help you track and manage all of your passwords.
3. Carry your device with you
Always take your laptop on the plane, train or taxi rather than checking it with your luggage. Even at the hotel, carry your devices on your own and don't leave them with the staff to "deliver to your room". It's too easy to lose luggage and think of the cost in terms of time, money and inconvenience to replace your stuff! Also use the in-room safe or at a minimum stash your tech gear where it won't be readily visible.
If you're traveling by car, when you pull into a rest stop or even a gas station, keep your mobile devices out of sight. It's worth the effort to even lock them in the trunk.
Remember most of these thefts happen in an instant and the thieves are on the move.
4. Keep your eye on your laptop
When you go through airport security, don't lose sight of your device or your bag. Hold your bag until the person in front of you has gone through the screening process. And make sure you have all of your devices before you leave the security area. TSA agents have been known to make a second line of income stealing items from unsuspecting travelers.
You also should not place your bag behind you and out of sight while you talk on your phone or update your social media status, watch videos or engage in some other form of distraction. Not everyone is as honest as your are and in today's economy there are a lot of people looking for easy opportunities to make some money.
5. Buy a laptop security device or program
Tools like Absolute Lojack, Prey Anti-Theft, and GadgetTrak can help find stolen or even misplaced mobile devices and give you a better sense of security. Of course many mobile devices include software with your initial purchase, but be sure to set it up, activate it and test it in advance. The physical location tracing is of no value if it has been turned off by the user.
6. Add your contact info and offer a reward
Sometimes you may just leave your device because you've got 1,000 ideas in your head and a plane to catch. And someone may find the mobile device you left behind.
Is it possible for them to contact you -- without turning on your device and having the password?
Security experts advise that you affix your name and contact information, along with a promise of a "Reward if lost or stolen—no questions asked,” on the device. If possible you can also return to the scene of the crime, and post your reward offer in the area. This is an old school approach that can still be effective.
These tactics can help improve your odds of getting the computer back in the event of theft or a simple mix-up.
Your device is stolen, now what?
- Be sure to change your passwords and use cloud access to your devices if available
- Report the theft to local authorities (such as the police) and provide model info and serial numbers. Sometimes these things turn up and you could be contacted. If you're in corporate, alert your company's IT department.
- If your device was insured, quickly get a claim filed so that you can recoup some of the replacement costs.
- Don't worry, you're not the first person this has happened too and you'll make it through this as well.
So there you have it. Not all inclusive, but certainly some fundamentals that you should immediately put in place to make your digital like a little safer. Think of a tip I missed? Be sure to include it in the comments below.