How I got robbed in San Francisco last week
What Should Be Your Survival Mind-Set in a Robbery?

Post-Robbery Insight: How to Protect Your Laptop on The Road

Back in January, I lost my laptop in a robbery in San Francisco. I got a ton of emails with helpful advice which I’d like to share.

  1. Statistics that will make you think twice
    An article in Fast Company claims that a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. More than 12,000 laptops disappear weekly from US airports alone and only 3% of stolen laptops are ever returned. FBI Statistics claim that one in 10 laptops are stolen within the first year of purchase.
  2. Ideas for foiling thieves
    I received a number of useful ideas for protecting my laptop on the road. One sales manager told me that the first night at a hotel he orders a medium pizza, cleans out the box and then puts his laptop into the pizza box when he leaves the room. An account rep told me that he slides his laptop into a large brown manila envelope that he places in the middle of a stack of papers.
    A more effective deterrent is a special laptop case called ScanSafe. This bag secures a laptop in a case made from a special stainless steel mesh fabric. The case is locked to a heavy object. It’s great for securing laptops at a trade show, in a hotel room, or in a car. For more travel safety gadgets go to
Three software firms claim to help you recover your laptop – which is best?

There are a number of software companies that sell programs that will send you an email when your stolen computer is connected to the Internet. The program will also take pictures of the laptop user and it will be sent to you over the Internet so you can alert the Police. The email will contain the IP address that identifies the location where the laptop is being used.



THE ADVERTISING PITCH: “PC-Trak™ from GadgetTrak® is activated by logging into your online account and clicking a button to activate tracking. The next time your PC connects to the Internet the software will activate and start sending you emails with the specific location and network environment of the system, as well as use the camera to take a photo of who is using the system every 30 minutes. No additional password prompts appear and the thief is unaware the software is tracking them.”

THE BUYING EXPERIENCE: I signed up for the three-year license, paid $59, downloaded their software on my computer which installed within minutes. I immediately received an email with a transaction ID. When the installation was complete, the final screen asks you for a LICENSE KEY. (It is not the same as the transaction ID). When I read through the agreement, I realized that the company promises you to email a license key, but does not specify WHEN. It could be a day, a week, or a month? I immediately began to distrust this company and their inability to be clear about what customers can expect from them. I dislike starting an installation without being able to complete the job in one sitting. After an hour, I received an email with a PRODUCT KEY. Is that the same as the LICENSE KEY? How literate are these people? I tried the Product Key and it turned out to be the license key. Next, the installation wizard asks you questions about email settings and SMPT (???) That requires an IT expert to install. Why doesn’t the company tell you that in advance? At this point I just had do give up.

MY OPINION: Companies that waste your time when you buy will waste even more of your time when you need the service. There is no information about the people who run the company.



THE ADVERTISING PITCH: “The CyberAngel with Wi-Trac® utilizes the industry’s most advanced & unique technology to Alert, Lock, and Locate in real-time when an unauthorized user tries to access a protected computer. The CyberAngel® will Alert the victim & the CyberAngel Secure Monitoring Center that an unauthorized access was attempted; Lock & hide the encrypted contents of the machine protecting VPN’s, personal information, applications and intellectual property; & Locate the computer using the most advanced tracking & recovery technology available today”

THE BUYING EXPERIENCE: I tried to buy the product and it took me a long time to find the shopping cart. The cost for a one year license is $69 which is much higher compared to Gadgettrak. The company does not allow you to download the software – it is sent to you. You can get it overnight for an additional $19.95. That’s not a “green” product.

MY OPINION: If this was an advanced solution, the software would be downloadable.



THE ADVERTISING PITCH: “The Agent in your computer maintains daily contact with the Absolute Monitoring Center. If you report your computer stolen, Agent contact will increase to every 15 minutes. Increased contact allows us to obtain specific details like the physical location of your computer, any activity that has occurred post-theft, and other important data that will aid us in working with local law enforcement to catch the thief and return your property to you. Regardless of recovery status, you can remotely delete data to remove some or all of the information stored on your computer so that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. This could include files and applications containing personal photos, internet bookmarks, browser cookies, financial information, and stored passwords. Everything an identity thief would need to steal your identity.”

THE BUYING EXPERIENCE: The Company offers a basic version of their solution for only $39.99, the premium edition is $59.99 which allows remote data delete (after a theft). I ordered the premium edition and the installation took less than four minutes. The registration code is sent immediately after the online purchase so you can complete the installation in one fell swoop. The best part is that at the end there is a test call to their data center which demonstrates that your laptop is now protected. Another neat trick is that the log-in page has pre-populated the password code with dots that would indicate the number of letters used in the password. The trick is that these dots purposely don’t match the length of your chosen password to foil a thief. The profile page also automatically displays the serial number of your laptop.

MY OPINION: A great solution, easy to install. The company seems solid and appears to be successful. I highly recommend this solution.

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I lost my laptop too while i was on the road. It is quite informative and i want to caution people to be very careful henceforth while they walk on the road with a laptop in their hand.

Christopher Ryan

Gerhard, your article brought to mind a very painful experience. While on a business trip, my co-worker insisted on going into the trunk of our rental car to adjust her makeup. Thieves were casing the restaurant parking lot and saw our luggage. They stole our laptops but interestingly, left the suitcases alone. The police told us this was a typical scenario. Lesson learned: never go into the trunk at your meeting location. Bad guys may be watching.

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