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How to Prevent Laptop Loss

Some laptop security products, such as the Targus Defcon 1 Ultra ($50), even have an audible alarm built in -- especially useful if a thief tries to sever the cable.

Baby, Come Back

If, despite all your preventative measures, your mobile device does go missing, all is not lost: Asset-tracking and recovery software can actually help locate a lifted laptop.

When a thief logs on, this software reports the IP address of the stolen machine to a service company, which then determines the physical location of the Internet connection and uses that information to obtain a warrant.

If the computer is stolen, for instance, a company like The LaptopLock will have you covered, for free: You log into your account on its site and mark your computer's status as stolen. When your machine is connected to the Internet, The LaptopLock will try to find out as much as possible about the connection to assist in recovery.

Absolute Software's Computrace LoJack for Laptops ($50 yearly, per computer) tracks, locates and recovers stolen machines. Through an Internet connection, Absolute will track your computer's location and partner with local law enforcement to get it back. The company even guarantees that you'll receive a full refund for the purchase price of the software if your computer is not recovered within 30 days.

For extremely sensitive data, you might need to take more drastic action if your device lands in the wrong hands. Like a spy taking a cyanide pill, some software programs can automatically wipe your laptop's hard drive clean through a remotely activated feature.

For example, Absolute's LoJack for Laptops mentioned above has a remote-kill feature. If your mobile device is stolen, the entire contents of the hard drive or just specific files can be erased.

Bluefish Wireless also offers a program called Central ($15), which sends out an SMS "kill pill" to Palm Treo devices. If your Treo is ever lost or stolen, Central transmits this signal to erase your data and reset the Treo.

Windows smartphone users can turn to PDAKill ($10) from SCPSoft . On receipt of a specific SMS (text) message, PDAKill will wipe your entire device's data.

With all the technology that's now available, it's criminal not to protect yourself.
Russell Dean Vines is Chief Security Advisor for Gotham Technology LLC and a bestselling author. His most recent book is The CISSP and CAP Prep Guide: Platinum Edition, published by John S. Wiley and Sons.
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