Securing Various Electronics in the South Pacific
February 28, 2013 9:59 PM   Subscribe

What would be the best ways to secure multiple laptops, smartphones, cameras (physically, and also to catch thieves) in a "rustic" foreign country... keeping in mind I need to fit everything in luggage or fashion it out of raw materials in country.


Secure Laptops - Laptop locks (for short term). Safe? Strong Metal Bag? Something else? (long term)
Secure Smart Phones & Cameras- Safe?
Secure premises - Small mobile hidden camera system??

Only Security systems that work in southern hemisphere/remote. GPS or online monitoring is great but worthless if I cannot use it there.

Rather stay away from monthly fees. Budget is not extravagant, but rather bring key pieces with me since local markets are not that helpful.


I will be moving to Fiji for the next 4 months, possibly longer. I may be in an apartment but I'm not sure that will offer much security. I've visited the places I will be staying and have already had things stolen from me multiple times in nice hotels.

Add to that I may be holding on to a wide variety of electronics (laptop, smart phone, camera, etc). Most will be my own and my fiancee's, but I also expect to acquire some items for friends so might have multiples.

So.... security is a consideration. I know laptop locks are merely for opportunistic theft, but I'll probably bring a few of those anyway.

My main thought was a rather large safe that I might be able to fit in my luggage and then chain/padlock to a wall, but I am concerned about the weight. I don't trust I can find anything appropriate in country. Plus I may move a few times while there so don't want a safe that is utterly immobile.

As I am thinking about laptops especially it seems like for a secure long term option (like if you leave the house for a day without it) you could weld metal plates into a cross formation with loops on the end and then run chain/cable through each end and padlock them on top (like a bow and ribbon on a gift box). Surely someone has thought of this and there are pre-formed ones?

I was thinking if I could get the basic parts (plus a light but sturdy safe) I could acquire the chain/steel wire and padlocks there to cut down on weight.

I would like to get some cheap GPS beacons and hide it in all my stuff, but I don't know how feasible that is, and how much the service to locate stuff would be.

Finally, Some sort of 24 hour security cameras... Of course they would have to be inconspicuous enough so that people would not just disable them (or steal them). I've never done anything like that, so not sure what best options are.

Of course I am open to any other consideration or advice. Thanks in advance!
posted by DaftMythic to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This solution depends entirely on where you're going, but when my partner and I moved to the South Pacific for a while, the anti-theft solution we ended up using was being closely involved in the local village, so that people were helping us out and keeping an eye on us.

Realistically, you may have everything get stolen from you. Just keep backups of important data on USB sticks and memory cards that you can more easily hide. I doubt you'd be able to get a safe very easily, and what's more, how will you secure it to the premises so that it can't be taken itself? The GPS beacon idea is pretty ridiculous, and depending on where you are the camera idea is pretty ridiculous, too.

If people want to steal your stuff, they will. I assume you're a non-local and will look different, so you'll stand out as targets. The best way to prevent this sort of thing is to make friends and contacts in the local community so that if you get robbed, you can go to the local chief and state your case, and pressure might be brought to bear so that your stuff appears.

Anyways, in the South Pacific humidity and conditions, many things don't last long. I've done a fair bit of fieldwork in the region and my policy is to get semi-disposable cameras and laptops for the work. If one dies? Unfortunate, but no big deal.

Have fun, back up to small storage that's easy to hide, and enjoy your time there.
posted by barnacles at 10:47 PM on February 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks... I think that is all valid points. My Fiancee is a native there and she has contacts in her home town police department. Actually I take one of the sergeants there out to lunch every time I am in town...

But we will be staying in Nadi, which is a big town, more touristy and more crime (that's where I had stuff stolen out of my hotel room... WHILE I WAS IN IT). While she has some contacts, not as much as her home town on Vanua Levu

I know the ideas are somewhat over the top, but I will have thousands of dollars of personal computer equipment there, PLUS whatever inventory we have (could be laptops, phones, cameras).

I may source a safe once I arrive there but I'd feel better bringing one with me. I was thinking chain it to a water pipe or something like that.

I feel like a set of small discreet video cameras hidden in a vent or obscured in some other way could work. I doubt the average thief will be looking for that. I've just never set up a system like that so I'm not sure if it can wirelessly connect to my laptop or... however that works.

BY THE WAY - I didn't mean to give the impression I will be staying on a deserted island... Nadi is the 2nd biggest city. I could probably find a safe after I got there, but anything electronic, or even simple things like laptop locks are hard to find.
posted by DaftMythic at 11:04 PM on February 28, 2013

Perhaps look up locksmiths, and call them to see if you can rent a safe, and call a hardware store to see if you can rent a big locking toolbox. Or rent/buy a truckbed tool box, if they're used out there.

You can buy online alarm clocks with hidden video cameras, but preventing a theft is less work than working with a cop or local friend to chase down a thief and negotiate or coerce recovery.

If you wanted to go esoteric, I'd suggest talking to a local cabinetmaker and have 'em design a cabinet (e.g. coffe table, nightstand, etc.) around a dumb-but-tough steel lockbox knocked together by a local welding shop. You could have made a big ugly box or something beautifully worked.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:23 PM on February 28, 2013

DaftMythic: "Thanks... I think that is all valid points. My Fiancee is a native there and she has contacts in her home town police department. Actually I take one of the sergeants there out to lunch every time I am in town...

I think with that in mind then you're already WAY ahead of the game regarding theft and your protection/defense against it! Given that you have contacts in the police department, I take back my previous comment about video cameras. Since you know the guys, they'll probably be much more helpful if you take video of a thief to them. The thing is, you're probably not going to get the equipment back even if you figure out who it was.

Overall, the big problem is that you're going to be in Nadi. There's a reason it's got something of a reputation in the region, after all ... (and what a total total pity you're going to be in Nadi rather than Vanua Levu!!).

If I were you, I'd be contacting the local PD contacts you have right now and asking them to see about seeing if a relative has a safe or something that you could buy, and then also asking them about getting help bolting it down in the house. Our landlord was pretty free and easy with us making renovations to the house that no landlord in the states would have allowed.

Alternately, you could go the dog defense route, but then you'd have to realise the animal would probably end up dying shortly after you leave it behind.
posted by barnacles at 11:41 PM on February 28, 2013

"GPS" tracking devices are for the most part dependent on a data link to a local GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSPA+ carrier. They are easily blocked by $30 jammers from China, by putting the device in a "booster bag" or any sort of bag that approximates a portable faraday cage, or just by taking the thing in question beyond range of mobile phone data services. GPS tracking devices that report their position by satellite data (Iridium, Globalstar, etc) exist but are much larger and more expensive.
posted by thewalrus at 3:28 AM on March 1, 2013

Here's an idea, could you live in a village outside of Nadi? I think being strategic about where you live is probably the best security measure possible. This would be something you could talk to your fiancé and your friend the seargent about.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2013

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