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SIDE STORY 2: Securing a laptop PDF Print E-mail

By Margaret Sevume

Universities in Uganda have adopted e-learning as a teaching method because of the ease it brings such as exchange of lecture notes and assignments, illustrations, notices as well as replication and accuracy. Correspondingly students require computers to make use of the material availed and hence the laptop which can be moved from lecture room to halls of residence, to library and to discussion groups.
On the international scene, the top five places where laptops are stolen or lost are:  K-12 schools, homes, cars, business offices and universities. In Uganda, statistics would differ because primary pupils (equivalent to K-12) do not generally own laptops, most offices use desktops rather than laptops and the majority of the business community have not computerised or automated their processes.
The greatest strength of a laptop is regrettably its Achilles’ heel: It’s too portable!  !   Thieves have perfected the art of stealing laptops since they have a ready and ever growing market among students and the working class too. In halls of residence at one of the leading universities in Uganda, at least 3 laptops are stolen each week.

How can one secure a laptop ?
One way is to install a tracker which is software that shows the whereabouts of a laptop. Good tracking software should be simple and light so that thieves can't tell that it's running and tracking them from behind the scenes. There are different types of these and globally the top five are LoJack, Laptop Cop, Gadget Track, Undercover and Frontdoor Software Security. Prey is another type that lets one keep track of the laptop, phone or tablet provided the device is connected to Internet and is not reformatted.  Locally, there is an agent for Quick Heal that traces a laptop  based on the MAC ID  which is not affected by reformatting.
However, there is another challenge; even after locating a lost laptop, the process of getting it back may prove untenable involving the police, making a statement at the police station and sometimes being required to facilitate the recovery process.

It therefore pays to make the laptop more thief-proof by buying a laptop lock which locks it on to a hard to move object. One can also set  power-on,power-on and hard disk passwords such that even if not recovered, the thief will also not be able to use it. Added to these are encrypting tools like truecrypt - an openopen-source software.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it has complied the following solutions that can help secure electronic devices.

Windows laptops
For Windows, get LAlarm (www.lalarm.com), which is free for personal use. If Windows is locked, LAlarm can be set to raise an alarm when someone disconnects the power cord or removes a USB flash drive.

If you prefer, another service called LocateMyLaptop — also free for personal use — lets you locate your notebook using Google Maps.

For added security, we also recommend you install a free solution called Prey on your device.

Android gadgets
Android has its own tracking feature that can be accessed via http://google.com/android/devicemanager. It tracks any Android device which is associated with your Google ID. You can view its location on a map, lock and erase data on the device or even make it ring.

You can also consider a free Antivirus app from AVG, Avast, Kaspersky, or Lookout. They offer remote tracking of your device with options to lock the phone as well as remotely wipe all the data.

Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Apple provides its own free anti theft app — Find my iPhone — that works on all iOS devices. Setting it up is easy and it lets you manage all the Apple devices you own through a single Apple account.

You can locate your device by logging in to your iCloud account from any browser and then send messages to it, lock it or wipe all data remotely.

If you want to try out other apps that provide similar anti-theft functionality, check out apps like Secureit or iLostfinder

Windows Phone devices
The anti-theft feature on Windows Phone is called Find My Phone. You just need to head to http://windowsphone.com and sign in using the same Windows Live ID that you use on the smartphone.

The browser will then display your phone's location on a map and let you directly print a hard copy of the location if a printer is connected. From the browser, you can make your Windows Phone ring loudly, lock it with a password or just erase everything on the device.

BlackBerry smartphones
BlackBerry's anti-theft solution is called BlackBerry Protect. It has to be set up on a BlackBerry device using a BlackBerry account. Once active, it automatically backs up your contacts, calendar entries and bookmarks.

Similar to other smartphones you can track your device's location by logging into the Protect website. Then, you can send messages, lock the device or erase all data on it. Using Protect, you can manage up to 7 devices from a single account.

Apple Macbooks
Apple offers its own anti-theft solution for its notebooks called Find my Mac. This is automatically enabled when you sign-in to your iCloud account. You can track your laptop remotely, wipe data or have it sound an alarm to find it.

Also check out Plug Spy (Rs 197) from www.celmaro.com/plugspy. It activates automatically as soon you as you lock your screen. If someone disconnects your power adapter, it immediately sounds a high volume alert and also sends a notification alert to your phone.

Security locks for laptops
Almost all laptops have a Kensington security port. This port can be used in conjunction with a compatible security cable to physically secure your laptop to an immovable object.

One end of the locks goes into the laptop while the other can be looped around something heavy. You can get a combination or key lock. They are available starting as low as USD 10 from various brands including Kensington, Targus and iBall.

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