It could happen to anyone.
You’re busy working away at your local hipster cafe, distracted by the coffee that you’re now required to construct whilst trying to hold a conversation with your colleague. And whilst you’re asking yourself the question “why did I pay $8 for this experience” you notice something is missing.
Your bag was next to the table and now it’s not there.
It could happen at airport security or a break in to your car or home.
And it’s not always theft – simple misplacement of your beloved laptop is very common as well, with this report claiming that 600,000 laptops are lost in US airports alone each year… 600,000??
We like to think that laptops are always under our control. The cyber-safe among us might have a super strong password that nobody could ever guess. You might use a Password Manager to keep the criminals at bay should they ever break in.
Is a secure, unique password enough to keep the bad guys and girls out of your laptop?
Most people think of hacking as a remote operation, which is of course true, but this report by the University of Texas in 2017 shows that more than half of reported cases of identity theft, fraud and abuse didn’t commence with typical “cyber-vulnerabilities”. They were instead started by “non-digital” theft including data being copied from stolen laptops.
Think laptop theft is not big business? In 2018, a criminal ring was operating in California that broke into cars and stole almost 2,000 laptops worth more than $2 million. The problem was so massive that it caused a shortage of auto-grade glass at the local body shops!
How can data be retrieved from a stolen laptop?
It’s actually quite simple…
- Remove the hard drive from the laptop using a screwdriver
- Place the hard drive into a laptop caddy
- Connect the laptop caddy to your computer via USB and you can browse the hard drive like any normal USB hard drive
What do you do next?
There’s only one way to protect your laptop data from this kind of theft – and that’s encryption. Encryption (put simply) scrambles the contents of your hard drive so that only someone who knows the de-cryption key can view/read the files. Meaning that when you login, the data is unscrambled for you.
But if someone steals your laptop and attempts to access your hard drive in the manner described in this article, they won’t be able to access your data.
- Encrypt Files If you have a Mac laptop, here is a guide from Apple about how to use FileVault and encrypt your files.
If you have a Windows laptop, here is what you need to know about BitLocker device encryption.
- Use a PIN or password – If this makes you worried about losing your smartphone, take a deep breath. Both iPhones and Androids automatically encrypt your data if you use a PIN or password. If you have an Android with an SD card, you can enable encryption under “Lock Screen and Security Settings.”