Richard Bucker

Dude where's my computer?

Posted at — Dec 26, 2011

I received a call early this morning. A former manager of mine was calling because his computer was stolen. This was not going to be that big of a deal because he regularly backed everything up and had an administrator password. Well almost. If this was just a crime of opportunity and they hardware was to be sold right away then everything is ok. If not, then he could be in some trouble and he’ll have to spend some time monitoring his TRW and the like.Whether or not you currently have valuable data on your PC or not … at some point prior to a theft or loss you might find yourself regretting that decision. So here are some preventative measures. completely encrypt your harddrive with a password backup your data offsite and with encryption use a screen saver with a non-trivial password install a service like lojack for laptops … and a little funHere is my explanation:By encrypting your harddrive you are essentially guaranteeing that if the thief has to power the computer that he/she will need a password. This password cannot be spoofed or practically guessed… and depending on the tool it might also erase the harddrive after just a few failed attempts.Dell offers a hardware encryption solution on some of their laptops. I had the service enabled on a Dell that was running Ubuntu. It was painful at times because I had not memorized the password but at least I was NEVER in fear of losing my client’s data or source code.There are other tools like TrueCrypt that will encrypt an entire Windows harddrive. TrueCrypt is not hardware locked so the drive could be pulled and some sort of automated attack could be performed… but that person would have to be committed to the endeavor.The best solution for backing up your computer has got to be CrashPlan. a) it’s cross platform; b) there is a family pack and a business version; c) it supports multiple simultaneous encrypted destinations; d) the cost is wallet friendly; e) the encryption prevents even their customer service from hacking your data.Even if you encrypt you harddrive … and a thief steals your “sleeping” laptop. They will have access to your data. All they need to do is wake your computer and there everything is. So set a screensaver password and use it. Make certain it is never disabled.Someone recommended a lojack service too. I suppose that would be a good idea, however, I do not know if I would ever use a computer that I might recover. Bad guys are just that. You have no idea if they installed a keylogger or some other piece of nefarious code (aka trojan). Be grateful you have it, drive a nail through it and toss it in the trash.Better than actually putting lojack on the computer would be to tweak your screensaver so that it popped up a screen or login screen that looked like a serious “you are being tracked” with some official looking graphics so that the thief might abandon the laptop or might actually help you out by destroying it themselves.Losing something like a laptop can rock your confidence. Not only was your space violated but it’s possible that your privacy will too.PS: While you are at it… you better put passwords on your iPhone and iPad… and other smart devices that you carry around with you like jewelry.