The danger of laptop theft -

The danger of laptop theft

More than just a financial loss


crime, theft, stolen laptopsWith so many students crammed into the library studying for final exams, I’ve been hearing lots of stories lately about students getting their laptops stolen.

On the University of Waterloo’s website, there’s a page about laptop security that advises students to “assume the worst” if their laptop has been stolen. “Your password has been compromised, your files have been compromised. Change passwords everywhere, watch your bank accounts carefully.”

I’m sure it’s not any worse at Waterloo than it is at any other school, but it’s horrifying to even imagine my laptop suddenly disappearing.

Never mind the whole financial side of things. Even if I could push a button and get a new laptop for free, at any given time during the semester, my laptop contains a lab report in progress, maybe a draft of an essay, a chemistry assignment, and lecture notes for an upcoming test. Not to mention all the non-school related stuff.

I’ve heard enough horror stories about hard drives crashing that I do keep a backup of most of my files. But if I’m working on a biochemistry assignment that’s due in three days, I rarely bother to save a backup. And I’m sure there isn’t a backup of every picture, video or document on my laptop, either.

And according to these stories I’ve been hearing, the thieves are other students.

-Photo courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography


The danger of laptop theft

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  3. When it comes to backing up your documents, I cannot recommend enough. Sign up and receive 2GB of storage free. Install their handy application, which creates a folder on your desktop, and anything you save into that folder is automatically synced with your online dropbox folder. No more worrying about backing up – every change you make is backed up INSTANTLY.

    All of my school work is saved to dropbox, so I don’t have to break a sweat if my laptop gets stolen. My files will still be there.

    (Dropbox also has paid solutions if you require more than 2GB of storage, but that should be enough to backup all of your schoolwork, at least).

  4. A quick list of things that you simply MUST do:

    – A rolling, automated, full disk, or at least user folder, backup. That is, you should be rotating in your backups, so that if you happen to back up a bunch of corrupted files, the clean versions are still around. And no, copying files to a USB disk is not a backup system. You’re not going to do it regularly, and you’re going to miss stuff.
    – A password that is required to log in, wake up, or unlock your computer. That way, if someone steals your computer, if they’re not especially tech savvy (which, chances are, they’re not), they’re not going to be able to get at your data.
    – A password management system that allows you to generate random (or at least semi-random) passwords for each site you use. If you’re using the same password on every site, you’re one weak link away from having your online identity stolen. This is especially true of anything involving money, and your email account (which can pretty easily be used to access almost any account you signed up for using). See

    A few other things that would be nice:

    – Disk encryption. Even if you’ve got a password for your user account, if someone takes the hard drive out of your laptop and plugs it into another computer, all of your data is sitting there in the open. Disk encryption makes sure that your hard drive is a sea of useless bits to anyone who doesn’t know your password. On the Mac, you can use FileVault, and Windows and Linux have similar features.
    – Multiple backup methods. For example, Dropbox AND Time Machine. That way, if one goes silently haywire, you aren’t screwed. Ideally, at least one should be online, or not in the same place as your computer.

    If you don’t do most of this stuff, you’re asking for trouble every day, and you have only yourself to blame if things go south. Whenever I get an email begging for notes because someone had their laptop stolen, I have a really hard time feeling sorry for them. They couldn’t be bothered to spend a few seconds to back their stuff up, why should I be wasting my time helping them?

  5. Backup everything! Especially if you are on the go.

    I know a few people who have have lost their smart phones and laptops in cabs, airports and transit.