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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Security: Could you recover your valuables if they were stolen?

There's lots been written on security for your machines and networks, be it routers, PCs, laptops, netbooks, iPads, Androids and Blackberrys and the likes - but all the security in the world isn't going to help you if these actually get stolen, either through a break-in or pick pocketing or the likes.

Are you prepared for this? Could you tell the police how to identify and track your items, should they get stolen?


There's services available such as, that will help track stolen laptops (and could be used on PCs), but that's not going to help if the thieves don't turn the machine on, or pull the drive prior to turning it on, so what should you be doing as well as or instead of, using this kind of service?

If you're going the software route, ensure you don't get taken in by the companies that appear to be trying to mislead you with the "better than GPS" or "provides the thieves real name, address ..." or similar claims. For starters, unless they're the authorities, they don't have legal access to location ownership records (certainly not quickly enough to be accurate or useful), nor are their software options more accurate than "real" GPS options. for example, states their system is better than GPS since it doesn't rely on the systems IP (unless it has access to wireless stations such as mobile phone masts (Cell ID numbers are unique to each mast), it has to rely on IP, which is far from accurate), better than going to the police, etc etc. Two problems here;

1. Their system only works if the machine is connected to the internet
2. Real GPS devices don't need to rely on IP or random wireless/phone masts or the likes, since the GPS device itself is trackable (GPS devices are the same thing the armed forces use).

Security Pens

Well, the basics are security pens. Whilst they don't allow for tracking, a security pen or security ink, is visible under UV light, and allows the police to identify your machine from the thousands of others.

For example, you could remove the case and pop "This is {YOUR NAME} computer. Call {YOUR NUMBER} if suspected stolen". All you need for this is the security pen/ink and a screw driver (to remove the casing). You could of course, put the mark on the outside, but it's far less likely to be found on the inside of the case (and DO NOT just put it on the memory sticks or the drives, as these are more likely to be replaced than any other part).

You can find security pens/ink in your local stationary shop, and local PC stores sometimes carry them too. You'll also find them online at the likes of Amazon (e.g. here).


To make it more likely that your stolen device is going to be found, it has to actually, be able to be found in the first place. The best option by far for this, is to place a GPS device inside. These certainly aren't cheap options, especially if you've got more than one device or are on a limited budget, but is the best of available options if your devices and data are sensitive/critical (and it should be noted, if they're sensitive/critical, then you should also have encryption on them, as well as regular local and remote backups).

A cheaper option to GPS (which other than for the very rich, isn't a viable option for most at present), is RFID. RFID isn't the same as GPS, and can't broadcast it's positon to a very wide area, but is an inexpensive option worth considering (note however, you'd need to keep a record of the RFID details and potentially have an RFID scanner/reader available). For details on RFID;

For most people, either the software or the security pen would suffice, as items are normally covered by insurance, so as long as the data is encrypted/protected, and backed up (which you should be doing anyway), spending a lot of money on other alternatives such as tracking software, GPS or RFID etc, is a little overkill.

I'm just rambling now, so I'll leave it there.

If you've got any thoughts on this subject, do pop them here.

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