Thursday, June 22, 2006

Laptop Security

Based on CSI/FBI Computer Crime Survey on 2005, we can conclude that stolen laptops case were increasing since laptops is easier to be stollen since it has smaller dimension and can be carried with a bag. Other thing that became one of the factor is that laptops usage is now common in most countries, including Indonesia. I have seen many people are working with their laptops, even they are in a mall. Companies have started to use laptops instead of desktop, since it can be used when you are travelling outside, so you can still work outside the office.

Since laptops have started to replace desktops, it's common to put all your data in your laptops. The problem is when your laptop get stollen. Other people will have access on your laptop, including your personal data or even worse, your company's data. One simple way to prevent access to it is by giving some password on different levels. You can start by giving password in BIOS or in the operating system itself (by making local accounts with strong passwords). For more paranoid people, you can start using third party software which encrypt some folders on your system (in Windows platform. I don't know in GNU/Linux), such as Folder Guard or Folder Lock. This way, the thief will have to pass several test first before they can view the data itself (even though it can be passed easily by using some Linux LiveCD distro, such as Knoppix or Ubuntu by mounting them in differnt laptop or desktop).

If you are trully paranoid, you can try using LoJack from Absolute. It can track your laptops and if your laptop isn't recovered within 30 days of you reporting it stolen, they will refund your purchase of Computrace LoJack for Laptops. You can also see their nice presentations. Unfortunately, this service requires that the laptop gets connected to the Internet before the data is being sent to the central data.

One conclusion about security is that there will never be 100% security. We can only try our best to prevent it.


  1. I ever saw a man bringing his laptop asking a help to computer store because he forgot BIOS' password. Technician said that it is more difficult to unlock laptop's BIOS password so that man got an advise not to activate BIOS' password. :)

  2. it's only 1 alternative. There are a lot of alternatives out there and please remember that BIOS passwords can be reseted by changing the battery. Some vendor have their default password and they are listed on the Internet, so it won't be too much problem

  3. It's disturbing to think that with all the laptop thefts in the past couple of weeks, more than a million people are in danger of having their identity stolen.

    Of course passwords are a necessary precaution, but they won't do all the work. Businesses and private parties alike need to be concerned with securing actual files on their computer from unathorized access - even in the event of laptop theft.

  4. I am not a crime investigater, neighter from Asia, so my opion might not count - In my eyes most laptops are stolen by small thieves, not organized crime. I believe most laptops are stolen to be retailed in the black circuit, they will be formated and sold once again.

    My laptop was stolen last September in a classical way:

    I returned from a week of Portugal with my brother, (1) in the train from Brussels airport back to my partents we chat about our adventures that week - tired but fulfilled. At a certain station a foreign man comes up to us and (2) ask us what station it is in a strange accent. While I try to help him to find out is he needs to get out (checking the signs outside) (3) his friend takes my laptopbag (including a brand new digital camera/brand new mp3 player/wallet/2Gb memorycards/some study books). We don't realize this till the train roles out of the station.

    What did I learn? Don't put your laptop in a laptop bag, always physically hold your bag (don't just put it next to you) and help strangers, but be more allert. Oh,. and one extra thing: make backups! ;) I felt worse over all my pictures, music and files that I lost than the laptop itself..

    But than ofcourse, my view is from the other side of the world, I can imagine that corporate information might have a high value to the right person.

  5. There are also some things that can be used to secure the laptops physically, but most of them are kind of locks, but it works. Thief will have to cut them through and it's not a job which can be done in 1 - 2 minutes.

    Most of thieves are jobless person and they do re-sell them in the black market. No wonder there's a lot of cheap laptops from famous vendor. I think they are re-factored laptops :D

    So besides laptop security, we have to beware if we want to buy new laptops. Make sure that the laptops are brand new and not re-factored products.

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