Look online for ways to keep your computers safe and you’ll face a deluge of software options, from encryption to recovery services and even location trackers if you feel like a vigilante and want to track the bad guys down yourself.
But all of these options assume your devices have already been stolen. What if we could stop that from happening in the first place?
Well the best way to do that is with hardware, so what’s available to keep your desktops and laptops safe?
While the popularity of desktops may be on the decline as phones, tablets and laptops claim the market, they’re still the go-to for many businesses, as well as gamers looking to build themselves a PC more powerful (and cheaper) than gaming laptops.
As they’re not made to be portable, desktop towers have an inherent advantage here. But a strong-armed thief or the use of a smaller, lighter case still make desktop PC theft a real problem.
Secure it to your desk
This one is the most basic, but also the most difficult to beat: secure your chassis to your desk.
The easiest way to accomplish this is with a piece of metal wire, similar to the Kensington locks we’ll talk about in the laptops sections. The problem here is that many cases (especially consumer versions) do not come with the required holes to loop the wire through. To fix this you’ll need to make a hole in your chassis.
Alternatively, building a rudimentary metal frame around your case is also an option. If this looks a bit too “Mad Max” for you, there are full metal enclosures you can purchase and attach to your desk, which you can get from security shops. They may need to be custom-built to your specific tower’s dimensions, however.
Think about the scene from any spy movie (or Indiana Jones) where the thief steals a valuable object from a platform and then immediately replaces it with a heavy sack. These tropes work off the concept of a pressure alarm. In simple practice, the valuable object holds down a button, and if that button ever releases, some sort of unwanted consequence is triggered, like alarms and deadly traps.
These can be had for relatively little money from most security stores, and they can easily be hidden by your chassis. Just remember to disable it when you need to move it around or clean it.
For businesses these can be integrated into alarm systems, and there are other options that use lasers and cameras to achieve the same effects.
Oh, and real pressure alarms are far too sensitive to be tricked by a quick pair of hands and a sack. Our giant rolling ball trap is coming for you, M. Jones.
The stealth approach
This option wins the award for most creative: it’s a method developed by chassis modders that is also great for security by extension. Remember those old, ugly beige PC towers from the 90s? Drop your new, expensive hardware into that case and the the thieves will probably leave it be as they search for more valuable-looking loot.
Also called “sleeper PCs” (aping performance cars made to look like rundown wrecks), the idea is hiding your valuables in plain sight. This options works well in business too, as a boring-looking PC is to be expected, and there’s bound to be a lot of older cases lying around.
Laptops are made to be carried round, which means they’re also made to be carried away by thieves. Luckily, there are ways to keep yours protected while still taking it with you.
If you’ve ever browsed laptop specifications before, you’ve most likely seen a “Kensington lock slot” listed as one of its features. This small opening in the body of a laptop (usually accompanied by a symbol of a lock) is simply a reinforced metal anchor point in which a lock can be attached. This lock is linked up to a metal wire and you’re good to go.
The popularity and spread of Kensington locks made it the go-to option for most companies and stores displaying laptops, and you’ll be able to pick up the required hardware on the cheap – they should cost you in the region of two hundred and fifty bucks or so.
While a Kensington lock is great for keeping a laptop safe when it’s in use, at the end of the day it needs to be put away and kept safe. While you could leave it tied up on a wire, it still leaves the device out in the open.
The simple solution is to have a centralised point to store the laptop(s) that affords additional protection, such as some sort of locked and reinforced container. Not only does this hide the assets away, but it means your security doesn’t have to be spread out.
The disadvantage here is the need to purchase a lockbox (which could be as simple as a safe), as well as creating a centralised point for thieves to assault. It must also be noted that the simple presence of a lockbox or safe could incite attention and anger from invaders, so you may want to consider concealing them.
Secure laptop bags
Once you’re out of your home or office, you’ll need something to carry the laptop in, and you don’t want that to be the weak point in your security.
Various manufacturers create sturdy bags which not only offer durability, but also multiple locking points for extra protection.
Another great tip is purchasing a laptop bag that doesn’t look like a laptop bag. Most thieves are well aware of what they’re looking for, and will track down the distinctive type of luggage that clearly holds expensive electronics. While a desperate thief will most likely steal any kind of bag or parcel, the fact that yours may not contain a laptop could be a huge deterrent.
The options in this story are only scratching the surface of what’s available. On the software side you can track, encrypt and back up your devices as well as use webcams and cameras to keep an eye on your valuables.
Other hardware options, such as using thin clients and remote servers also exist, but they’re much more involved and require more investment.
Also the obvious needs to be said: prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to securing valuable items like laptops and computers, so never take your eyes off of your valuables, always follow good password etiquette and remain eternally vigilante.