STEALING

When times turn down, theft turns up. After cash and jewelry, the most valuable portable objects may be laptops. 

The cheapest way to guard a laptop from theft is chain it to a post. In fact, special cable locks, much like the ones for bicycles, are made for just that purpose. They cost about $30. Most laptops come with a socket on the side that fits one end of these anti-theft cable locks. Once locked, you can’t remove that computer without smashing it to bits.  

Then there’s “Lojack.” This is a recovery system initially designed to find stolen cars. But now there’s LoJack for Laptops.” If you declare your laptop  stolen,  it begins reporting its location every 30 minutes, through the Internet.  

A special feature of this system is that the owner can flag sensitive files. When you identify a laptop as stolen, a signal is sent over the Internet to delete those files. Just before deletion, the files are transmitted to the software company’s storage banks, where you can collect them.  

There are ways to disable Lojack, however. If a thief is knowledgeable, they can enter commands that will nullify the program’s ability to call home. If the Lojack software comes pre-installed on a new computer, however, the company says it is nearly impossible to disable. That’s because changes are made to the BIOS settings (the Basic Input/Output System). Of course, if you really know what you’re doing, you can replace the BIOS.  

What happens most often in the real world, however, is what employers call “PC drift.” The computer’s not really stolen, they just don’t know where it is.  

Lojack service costs $40 a year and you can get it at LojackForLaptops.com. A premium edition of the software costs $60 and pays the user up to $1,000 if they can’t recover the laptop or failed to delete the sensitive information. (Small comfort.) 

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