BI Monkey – Robbed :(

Yesterday I came home to discover that someone had been through my flat and made off with my household laptops and assorted shiny things. This is never a pleasant experience, and always hassle to sort out with Police, Locksmiths and so on.

While shiny things often have sentimental value, it ultimately is just stuff, and stuff can be insured and replaced. However the laptops contained that most valuable of modern commodities – data, lots of it, most very personal. What had I done to protect it? Nothing. My very, very bad. My backup routines were flaky and none of the data was encrypted, so whilst I have changed every password I can think of my data on the machine is still vulnerable. Consequently I am at severe risk of ID Theft and can only hope that the people who end up with our laptops just wipe them and don’t try and use the data on there for malicious purposes.

I was slack because I thought our machines were safe at home and we lived in a safe neighbourhood, but like any assumption it was flawed. So if you own a laptop / pc on which you store data you don’t want falling into other people’s hands, I strongly advise you to do the following now.

  1. Make sure your machine is password protected – even for screensavers. If you leave your machine idle when you aren’t at home, make sure it will lock itself if you forget to do it manually.
  2. Encrypt your personal data – which is a built in feature of Xp/Vista/7 – and so simple i’m really kicking myself for not doing this
  3. Backup your data – preferably on a discreetly located wireless NAS, which should come with software to make this a breeze. Maybe even use LiveMesh at a push.
  4. Track your laptop – there are various bits of free and paid for software that will report its location, take snaps with the webcam and report it to a web server so you have some chance of recovery.

So now i’m down to outdated backups, lost data, and having to be wary about alot of my financial activities for a long, long time because of my carelessness. Allow me to be the lesson you learn from.

An Irked BI Monkey.

5 thoughts on “BI Monkey – Robbed :(

  1. It’s never something you expect to have happen – condolences… I’m sure it would be cathartic for the Monkey to go fling poo at the interlopers…

    One of the first things I did when I put Windows 7 RC on my machine (and ever since) was use full-drive encryption with BitLocker. I know it’s not bulletproof – but it’s better than nothing, and completely transparent. I think that having that makes it more likely the miscreants would decide to wipe it rather than crack it. I also have a Windows Home Server, which is a very easy backup solution, allowing a full image restore, or file-by-file restores. And I’m a little paranoid every time I travel, backing up everything “important” to two USB sticks – one I leave at home, and one I carry with me.

    Crime sucks!

  2. Very sorry to hear BI Monkey, it is the worst feeling coming back to find doors ajar and things missing. My gut still sinks when I think of it and ours happened 5 years ago.

    But you have made some valid points. Most of us will spend a portion of our time at clients preaching the need to have secure services, restricted access to data and limit the feed to external sources to protect private client information yet we leave our home open to attack with unsecure wireless points and no passwords on our PC’s.

    Although I have password protected PC’s and ensure important data is backed up, I also have my external hard drive that contains all the backup data sitting in the middle of my desk and without any encryption. Its just photos, and documents, and projects, but in most cases they cannot be replaced! Well I know what I will be spending the next few days sorting out!!

  3. Sorry to hear about the loss of your laptop. You’re right — PCs contain priceless data. You mention laptop tracking in your post. When it comes to tracking your laptop, it’s best to leave the forensics to the professionals. For instance, LoJack for Laptops is backed by Absolute Software’s Theft Recovery Team, who gathers evidence and will work with law enforcement until the point when the laptop is recovered. Free software solutions aren’t likely to provide this ability.

    For more information about LoJack for Laptops protection, read the following article:
    http://www.studentlaptopsecurity.com/post/The-Best-Way-to-Protect-Your-School-Laptop.aspx

  4. LoJack is only going to be of any use if the laptop is connected to a network after it has been stolen. A half way competent ID thief wouldn’t do that. Plus it’s no defence against someone just physically removing the drives and reading the data on them without ever turning the stolen machine on.

    I’d argue that as a defence against ID Theft, LoJack is pretty useless. For recovering a stolen laptop it has its uses. Realistically i’d rather my data was protected – and solid Encryption is your only option here. Laptops can be insured.

    If your data is backed up so you can recover from the loss of data, and it is encrypted so a 3rd party cannot use it, then the loss is trivial if the hardware is insured. You can just view it as an opportunity to upgrade.

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