Having your laptop, desktop or PDA stolen is a nightmare scenario many of us hate to think about and regretfully, some of us have experienced. So what can you do to in order to try and recover your property when stolen?
It’s somewhat tiresome, but it will help when your property is recovered that you keep a list of serial numbers to hand so that you can help the police identify them. Personally I recommend storing all your important info like serial numbers in Evernote. This service is free and allows you to retrieve text notes anywhere there’s an internet connection. It also means that you have a permanent digital copy, not some scrap of paper you lose later!
If your device is stolen and the thief connects it to an internet connection (inevitably) then installing Prey (from the Prey Project) will definitely come in handy.
Prey runs as a small program in the background that can be activated on your command and has some excellent features which will be essential in helping track where your device is, including:
- Geo-location tracking
- Taking of screenshots (great when the thief starts using facebook or emails)
- Activation of any attached webcam (DIY mugshot)
- List of nearby WiFi hotspots
This might not be the definitive method to locate your device but it’s all going to help when it comes to the recovery and possible prosecution.
Prey comes in free and Pro versions and supports Windows, Mac, Linux and Android – iOS version promised later; the free version allowing up to 3 devices to be tracked per registered email.
Accessing your PC
Now we have a means to capture the location, and possible picture of the person who may have stolen your device, having access to your device. Luckily for Windows and Mac users you can use remote desktop software like LogMeIn.
LogMeIn has free and paid versions – the free version is limited but does allows you to screengrab and also take control of the desktop session. This will allow you to copy all your important files to a service like DropBox (we’ll come on to that in a minute). The paid version lets you copy the files directly to your hard disk.
There are other free alternatives out there just as adept as LogMeIn such as PC Helpware which will do the same type of function; the reason I mention LogMeIn is that it seems to be the tool of choice for folks in the Reddit community who tend to be very technically minded.
There are a couple of services out there that provide free remote storage; for the purpose of this post I’m going to recommend DropBox (I use this service), but will suggest some alternatives.
Remote services provide an amount of web-based storage space; in the case of DropBox, they provide 2GB of space, of which you can purchase more space. Typically you install a small piece of software and then your PC or Mac can then access this space as if it were a disk drive attached to your computer.
For everyday use you can store files as if it were just another disk drive – and in the case of your PC or Mac being stolen, copy files from your PC to DropBox. You then need to change your DropBox password (or uninstall on the stolen device) to prevent the thief accessing your files.
Alternatives to DropBox are:
- SugarSync – Similar to DropBox, with some more advance sharing options and a larger amount of space with the free plan (5GB). As an early adopter I went with first to market (DropBox) but this service seems to be just as good.
- Microsoft SkyDrive – Boasting 25GB of free space, Microsoft’s offering seems excellent. However I’ve tried it out and personally feel that DropBox and SugarSync are better for my own needs – however you should also check it out to see if it’s a good option for you.
How many of you click YES to “remember password?” when you’re entering a username / password? You’ve now allowed the thief to access any site you said yes to – this could include your email and other personal information, should your device be stolen.
I personally use LastPass – a free service that intercepts all your “Remember Password” requests and stores them in a remove store (securely). Of course, you’re now putting all your eggs in one basket (LastPass), but the service is secure and also stops your stolen device having your personal passwords on it.
An additional benefit is that by installing LastPass on other devices you can access those secure sites without having to re-enter anything.
Extra : Bookmark Synchronisation
If you like the idea of having browser bookmarks synchronised across browsers on separate devices check out the following:
- All browsers – XMarks
- Firefox / Foxmarks – Firefox plugin
- Google Chrome – Link up your Google Account to Chrome and you can sync your bookmarks
Note – I have only personally used Google Chrome sync’ing, so can’t speak for the other two. If you’ve got good or bad experience of these or others please comment and let us all know!