Security 101

The 5 Most Common Ways Laptops are Stolen – How to Avoid Them | Prey

Did you know that laptop computer have a 1-in-10 chance of being stolen, which means that there is a 10% chance for you to be the victim of laptop theft.

As you might have seen, we get lots of recovery stories from our users, in which they tell us how their stuff got stolen and how they got it back, and in some cases, how they managed to do this even from a different country.

So we decided to do thorough research, according to hundreds of stories we’ve received so far, and list the top five places where laptops get stolen

So, grab a cup of coffee and read this carefully, because it  might help you reduce the chance of your laptop from being stolen

1. Taken from your car

Broken car window

According to Kensington, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. Raj Samani, CTO for Intel Security, mentions that the market for stolen laptops is growing every day, and what’s even more worrying is that, it is now very common for the data found in the laptops to be uploaded and sold online.

People tend to think cars are safe places to hold things (including their laptops), but in reality, they aren’t. If there’s something valuable inside, it’s very likely thieves will feel tempted to break the window and run away with the lot. Though this usually happens when cars are parked with no one around, that’s not always the case.

So if you’re parking your Lamborghini, always remember to either take your laptop and all of your belongings or at least hide them under the seats, in a way that they’re not visible from the outside. Additionally, always try to park your car in a brightly lit area, as dark corners make it easier for thugs to hide from other people or security cameras.

This doesn’t apply only to computers but to whatever you might place on the seats: money, jewelry, suitcases, and basically anything that might be tempting to snag.

Don’t let one stolen device lead to a company-wide data breach

2. Free/Public Wi-Fi areas

Public Wi-Fi

If you were a thief and wanted to steal a laptop or other wireless electronic devices, where would you head up to? Public Wi-Fi hotspots, of course!

Most people don’t realize how easy is to get robbed while on a public space. Depending on the kind of thief, it might be just a hit-and-run mug or a hollywood-like fight scene. So, despite how appealing such places may seem, our recommendation is to avoid going on your own, since that makes it more probable that your stuff might eventually be left unattended.

3. While passing airport security

X-ray machine

Kensington surveyed 300 U.S. IT professionals from a range of industries for its IT Security & Laptop Theft report. The results showed that 15% of IT thefts were taking place in airports and hotels. This shows how risky it might be for you to travel with your laptop. However, it doesn’t have to be that terrifying. There are ways to protect your laptop when traveling and prevent it from being stolen.

We all know the story: once you go through airport security, you will be forced to take your shiny laptop out of its bag and into a box.

What happens then is that you wait in line for a few minutes, and once called you pass through the x-ray machine and head over to collect your stuff. And here’s where the problem lies: since there’s so many people around, and everything happens so fast, it’s quite likely that you’ll forget about one of your boxes, or someone else will grab its contents before you.

Yes, even with all the security staff hanging around.

So follow the TSA’s advice and don’t forget the following:

  • “ALWAYS watch your belongings as they advance through the x-ray equipment at the security checkpoints – for secondary screening, INSIST that your belongings be brought to you.”
  • Try not to put your laptop in your checked bags while traveling abroad. Remember airlines generally don’t insure lost baggage and they do tend to get lost every now and then.

4. At the office

Laptop office

Your coworkers wouldn’t ever take your precious new laptop, now would they? Well, they probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your stuff unprotected on your desk when you go out for a minute. Unless you work in a small office —like ours— where you know and can trust everyone, do try to keep an eye on your gadgets.

It doesn’t matter if there are surveillance cameras around the place. They won’t be everywhere and there might be people passing by for any reason who would be happy to take your shiny new lappy with them. Most probably, people that don’t work for your company.

5. At the library

Laptops at the library

Just like workplaces, libraries are usually taken as super-safe places where to read or study (or, ehem, sleep). But there’s not a single reason to think you’re actually safe, specially if they’re public libraries.

Anyone can quietly take your bag while you’re taking a nap concentrating on that test you’re so scared of. If you just can’t keep on reading and really need to rest, put your computer and bag under your arms while you nap. That way, if someone tries pulling them you’ll be back from your dreams to confront him — that is, unless you hibernate like a bear.

Laptop Theft Recovery

You’ve lost your laptop. The question is, what can you do next? You can of course contact local law enforcement, change all of your important passwords. We have an entire article to help you if you’re looking for your own solutions. However, we definitely recommend using device tracking software on your devices in the future. 

Prey is one of the most popular and effective solutions you can get, and here’s why!

How Preyproject Device Tracking Can Help

Prey is a cross-platform, open-source security solution. It’s a miniature piece of software installed on a device, such as the Prey client, and an online system, say your Control Panel, that’s used to track the device. Essentially, it connects these two points, allowing you, as the user, to track and recover your devices in case of loss or theft.

Prey can locate all your devices on a map, whether you are an individual or a company, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets. It is compatible with all Windows, macOS, Ubuntu, Android, or iOS; thus, it serves a huge variety of customers worldwide.

You can also take screenshots from your computer and remotely wipe the data from your device. Keep in mind, this is crucial. If you cannot recover your device, you don’t want the thief or any other party assessing your sensitive data. Prey enables a remote wipe. Therefore it keeps your data safe at all times.

Here’s how you can use Prey to recover your lost laptop, or any other device, in this regard:

1)     Download Prey

2)     Install Prey on your laptop

3)     Create an account

4)     Add the device to your account

Note: You must have Prey installed on your laptop before it’s stolen or lost. All you need to do as a user is have Prey set under your Prey account and run on the computer or mobile. The provider handles the rest. The device also needs to be connected to the Internet to be tracked. Otherwise, it would be a pending request.

As you can spot, it’s a straightforward, four-step process. It will not take up any of your time or resources. So, now, you might be wondering – why would I go for Prey over any other available solution?

Sure, the market came up with a bunch of similar alternatives since the release of Prey in 2009. However, none of them allow you to protect all of your devices from a single access point.

Prey, in turn, consolidates all your security needs on the Control Panel, with no restrictions regarding device manufacturers or operating systems.

Apart from real-time results and locations, you can also assess Prey’s reports. The provider generates these analyses on predetermined periods set by you as the customer. The reports can include different information, such as pictures, locations, network data, and so on. In turn, they serve as practical evidence for when the police come into play.

In this regard, Prey is genuinely superior to all other solutions available today.

Pictures available under Creative Commons licenses, by Engineering at Cambridge, Adam Henning, Ryan Greenberg, Jo & Joey, Motoya Kawasaki, Michael Coghlan and Attila Acs.

About the author

Fabián Núñez

I love tech and Asian food. Headbanging since 2002. Overall badass.