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Theft of Laptop Computers

Presented by

American Crime
Prevention Institute
Laptop Computer Background

1984 Apple Computer introduced its Apple IIc, a

notebook-sized computer, but not a true
laptop, as the combination computer LCD-
screen required the user to set it up on
arrival at the worksite.

1986 IBM introduced its IBG PC convertible, the

1st true laptop computer. It ushered n the
laptop era
Theft of Laptop Computers

It is reported by Safeware Insurance (specializes in

insuring computers) that over 590,000 laptop
computers were stolen in the U.S. in 2001, a 53%
increase over the number stolen in 2000.


Laptops have become the second most valuable item of

theft (after motor vehicles) in the United States.
The theft of desktop PC’s has actually fallen in
recent years (thefts decreased 6% in 2001)
while the theft of laptops has increased.

While the loss of data contained in stolen laptops

is far more valuable than the laptops
themselves, the target of most thefts is the
laptops, not the data and information contained
in them.
Recent Notable Incidents

 Theft of State Department laptop with “highly

classified” with non-password protected and non-
encrypted information – Feb., 2002
 Theft of Qualcomm CEO - left laptop unattended for
15 minutes on a hotel’s podium at a national
conference – Sept., 2000
 In March, 2000, a laptop containing sensitive data
about Northern Ireland was stolen from an agent of
Britain’s MI5 internal security bureau
 In July, 2001, the FBI reported 184 laptops had been
stolen or lost
In addition to the computer:

 The risk that confidential and/or sensitive information

will be lost or stolen.
 If information in laptop not backed up, possibility of
substantial business interruption - losses and
administration costs.
 Stolen laptop may be used to get unauthorized access
to private networks.
 Liability concerns if confidential information from a third
party is lost.
Vulnerable Locations

 Parked, Unattended Motor Vehicles

 Company Offices
 Hotels and Conference Centers
 Colleges and Universities
 Hospitals
 Libraries
 Airports
Laptop Theft Prevention Strategies

 User Awareness and Precautions

– Record the make, model and serial number of
the laptop and any peripheral attached devices
and keep the numbers at both a secured
location and in a wallet or purse.
– Return the completed warranty card to the
manufacturer. This may help “flag it” if a thief
ever sends it in for maintenance.
– Back-up files in your laptop on a regular basis or
download critical files to your desktop computer
or server.
– If privately owned, make sure the laptop is covered by
the homeowner’s insurance policy. A rider or special
insurance policy may be needed. Safeware Insurance
Company offers such coverage.
Cost = $150.00- $200.00 annually.
– Never leave a laptop visible in an unattended motor
vehicle. If it is necessary to leave a laptop in a an
unattended vehicle, the best place is in a locked trunk.
– Carry a laptop in a nondescript
carrying case, briefcase or bag
when traveling. Placing it in a
case specifically designed for
computers makes it an obvious
target for thieves.
– When traveling by taxi, shuttle
bus or public transportation,
keep your laptop with you at all
 Laptop Security at the Airport

– Keep your laptop as a carry-on. Place it in the

under-seat storage area, if possible.
– In the airport, always keep your laptop within your
sight line.
– Places you can lose your laptop in an airport
 At a rental car check-in counter.
 While engrossed in a telephone conversation
 In a crowded restroom
 As you sleep or read a newspaper between
– Be sure laptop battery is charged – for
airport security inspections
 Laptop Security at Hotels and Conference
– Don’t place your laptop on the bellman’s cart
– Don’t rely upon hotel or conference staff to lock up
a meeting room during a lunch break
– Use the hotel safe (better than a room safe) to
protect your laptop while you are away from your
– If you leave your laptop in your room, don’t
advertise its presence -store it out of sight –
Possibly in luggage.
 Laptop Security at the Office
– Employees should be advised about the potential of
laptop theft in meetings, company newsletters,
circulating articles about laptop theft and through
interoffice email communications.
– Establish a policy making the employee responsible
for the loss of a laptop if they do not follow company
policy for safeguarding it. Communicate this policy
in writing and require a signed statement of
– Provide employees with adequate secure storage
for their laptops, such as lockable security closets or
– Maintain an up-to-date inventory of company owned
– Engrave the company’s name/ID on laptops
– When unattended in the office, maintain laptops in
lockable docking stations secured to a desk or
Laptops in Motor Vehicles

 Never leave a laptop in an unlocked vehicle –

even in a driveway or garage.
 Even in a locked vehicle, never leave a laptop
in plain sight.
 If you must leave a laptop in a vehicle, place it
in a locked trunk.
 If you don’t have a trunk, cover it up and lock
the vehicle doors.
Laptop Theft Prevention Strategies

 Encryption - Install software that makes documents

stored in a laptop computer unreadable to anyone
without a correct password.
 Strong Password Guidelines
– Use 2 or 3 unrelated short words
– Include at least 3 character sets, e.g. special characters or
punctuation numerals, and a mixture of upper and lower
case letters.
– Deliberately misspell words.
Backup of Data

Consider backing up laptop data to a network

server before leaving the office or using an
external hard drive that can be kept in a safe
 Distinctive Markings
– Apply distinctive markings to make your laptop
unique or easily identifiable.
– Security Tracking of Office Property (STOP) – The
STOP tag, which is glued to the laptop case and
requires 800 pounds of pressure to remove, leaves
an etched stolen property inscription and phone
number for recovery.
 Biometrics
– Intel has developed a system that requires the users
to identify themselves via a fingerprint before the
operating system is loaded.
 Cables Locking Systems -cables are
attached to the Universal Security Slot (USS)
provided in most laptops. Anchor the laptop
to a table or desk with the cable.
Most of these devices are between $30-$50 and can
be found at office supply stores.

 Alarm Devices
– Two units - one in the laptop case and the
other carried by the owner. There are RF
transmissions between the two units. If the
units are separated beyond a
predetermined distance, an alarm sounds.

– Motion Detection Systems – The Caveo anti-theft
system for Windows laptops has a motion detector
that emits a 110-decibel alarm if the laptop is moved
beyond a user-specified (3-30 foot) perimeter.

Cost of Caveo system is approximately $75-$80

 Theft Retrieval Programs
– Similar to “LoJack”
– “Stealth” software is loaded into the laptop -
detects presence of a telephone line and
periodically dials an 800 number to report its serial
number and the phone number it is calling from.
– Software is undetectable and tamper-proof.
– CompuTrace - initial cost is $30.00 with annual
cost of $50.00
– CyberAngel – automatically transits the calling
location ID – both telephone and network
– Lucira
– zTrace
 Stolen Computer Registry –
Nacomex USA will publish the serial number
on a stolen computer registry - buyers, sellers,
insurers, law enforcement can use this service.
Laptop Security Technologies

 User Authentication – confirm authorized user

– prevent unauthorized access
 Physical Locking Devices – deter theft
 Encryption – protect data
 Monitoring and Tracing Software – locate and
assist in recovery of stolen computers
 Alarms – deter theft
Possible Crime Prevention

 Crime prevention presentations to large

 Crime prevention presentations to local civic
organizations – Chamber of Commerce, Rotary
Clubs, Optimists, etc.
 Informational item on the police department’s
Internet website
 Training bulletin for line police officers
 Coordination and programming with local libraries,
hospitals and colleges/universities
 Crime prevention brochures – local computer stores
 Better Business Bureau
 Article in local newspaper about laptop theft
 Programming with the security staff or management of
conference hotels
 School Resource Officers (SRO’s)
Laptop Theft Videos

 “Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Preventing

Laptop Computer Theft”

20 min. - $149.95


Phone: (818) 225-1991

 “Look Out For Your Laptop”

18 min. - $695.00


Phone: (617) 26205634

Excellent laptop Security
Information on Internet (Google)

 Corporate Laptop Security Guide – SANS

 Caveo – Laptop computer Security whitepaper,
March, 2003

American Crime Prevention Institute is a division

of the AEGIS Protection Group, Inc.