How do I prevent laptop (macbook) theft?
September 3, 2008 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Prophylactic-laptop-theft-filter: Help me keep my macbook mine.

I have an unhappy situation in which I must leave my laptop (a macbook) unattended for long periods of time in a semi-secure location (a room that 40 people have a key to). What is the best way to prevent theft -- keep it out of site, obviously, but what software/cables/other things do you recommend?
posted by MaddyRex to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
HOME OWNERS INSURANCE/RENTERS INSURANCE and a standard laptop security cable from
posted by SirStan at 2:29 PM on September 3, 2008

Off the top of my head, I can think of iAlertU and Undercover as software solutions. I've heard good things about each of them, but have never personally tried either. Undercover looks very clever, but I've always been a little uneasy about letting a company have access to my computer.

As far as locks go, I know the Kensington ones have a large market share. Again, I haven't tried them personally.
posted by badmoonrising at 2:32 PM on September 3, 2008

Laptops have a lock port. It's a depression in the case, on the edge. You buy a cable laptop lock. You secure the cable to a big permanent object. The other end fits into the depression, you turn the key and it expands. Hard to describe, easy to do. The cable would not be hard to cut, and the lock can be torn off of the laptop, but it prevents casual, opportunistic theft. And it's cheap.

Make sure you have your name and contact info either engraved or taped onto the laptop.

Bits of folklore: A picture of a face, w/ eyes watching, has been shown to reduce theft. And a sign saying: Don't steal also reduces theft.
posted by theora55 at 2:46 PM on September 3, 2008

The Kensington locks will give you a semblance of security, in that as long as two or more people are in the room, one of them is unlikely to simply cut the cable (pretty easy) or rip the lock out of the flimsy plastic case of the computer and walk off with it. As soon as one person is alone or trusts the others in the room that cable won't do jack. They'll know you won't be back for hours, and that at least 40 people are supposed to have a key, but who knows who else has a key or who borrowed a key, or how often the door is mistakenly unlocked or left ajar. It will be hard to pin the theft on just any one person with that many known security failings and keys floating about. Your best bet is to keep it locked in a metal drawer that only you have access to. Lock it every single time you are away from it, even to go get a coffee down the hall, so that it's never floating in someone's mind as an unsecured laptop.

No sign or poster will stop someone who is already looking to steal a laptop from grabbing up this target of opportunity. You leave it out and open, it'll take seconds to steal without making a scene or a sound, you put a kensington lock on it and maybe it'll add 10 or 15 seconds to the time and a light little snap when the bolt cutters bite through the cable.

Engraving it won't do anything either, nor will software really. As soon as that thief sells it for cash nothing on the hard drive is his problem. A funky/trendy sticker over your engraved info will make the theft out of site/out of mind for the person looking to get a good deal on a computer from a sketchy source.
posted by Science! at 3:10 PM on September 3, 2008

Those Kensington cable locks might prevent casual crimes of opportunity... but I once had opportunity to cut one off with a hacksaw. It took like 3 minutes, and only took that long because I was being careful to cut it clean out of the laptop security port without scuffing the case.
posted by meta_eli at 7:15 PM on September 3, 2008

Those Kensington cable locks might prevent casual crimes of opportunity...

Ditto the locked metal drawer, if people know you put it in there -- when a friend got laid off from work and had to leave the building, but didn't have her metal-rolly-cabinet key to get her stuff, I broke into it in a couple of minutes without any tools, and managed to put it back together when we were done pulling everything out of it.

If I really wanted to have success with this, then, I'd do this:

#1: locked metal drawer, as previously suggested. this prevents people who don't know you keep it there from knowing it exists.

#2: inside the drawer, a kensington or similar laptop lock, also as previously suggested, but wrapped around a strong metal crossbar inside the cabinet such that it's easy for you to lock/unlock with the key, but it would be nearly impossible for someone to get a hacksaw in there. So a determined thief who knows where you keep the laptop would need to defeat two locks, and would likely make a lot of noise banging around inside the cabinet trying to use tools to break the second lock.

Oh, and don't use an old kensington, get a new one -- the old ones could be defeated by a ball point pen casing (I'm not kidding; after reading the reports, I tried it myself on an office latop, and succeeded.)
posted by davejay at 11:34 PM on September 3, 2008

If this is a room you can make modifications too, this sort of locking cabinet would give more security, but it's definitely not pretty, or something you would want to add to an executive conference room or the like.
posted by pupdog at 4:32 AM on September 4, 2008

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