Surviving a Stolen Laptop

Two weeks ago, someone broke into my office at work and stole my laptop. That’s as simply¬†as I can tell the story. I opened the door when I arrived in the morning, and it was gone.

x-all-the-things-templateThankfully, they left my external hard drive, Cinema Display, TARDIS USB hub, keyboard, 2 pence coin, and many other valuable pieces of camera and video production equipment.

The feeling of knowing that your data and information is out there somewhere out of your control is very uncomfortable. Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful as I’ve lived through the last couple of weeks. They have helped me turn what could have been a complete and utter disaster into a major annoyance.

Log out of all the things!

Many services like Facebook, Google, Dropbox and others will let you login and select which computers currently have access to your account. Go ahead and disconnect that particular computer. I’m fairly certain my Gmail was logged in, but I was able to get it disconnected.

In Facebook, you can see your current session and all browsers and IP addresses logged into your account. Here’s a sample:

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Change all the passwords!

I use 1Password to manage my hundreds of passwords. It’s a life-saver, and thanks to it syncing to Dropbox, I didn’t lose a password. I know my master password, so that was safe.

screen568x568But… the Twitter client on my now stolen Mac was signed into several accounts, including my University account. We quickly changed all the passwords to all our University social media accounts, just to be safe.

It’s scary when you think about all the stored information on your computer, especially if you’re a web person like me. I’m taking FTP passwords stored in Transmit. Database logins stored in Sequel Pro. They all got changed. It’s a pain but better safe than sorry.

If you aren’t using two-factor authorization, please do. There are apps like Google Authenticator that make it easy to manage that additional level of authentication to protect yourself. Some services, like Backblaze, will send a text message to your phone with a code. Whatever method you prefer (I use both), adding that additional level of security to your account is good.

Secure all the equipment!

>We are now actively locking all equipment and I’m bringing my laptop home every night. The new 13″ Macbook Pros have lost the Kensington security slot, which stinks, but the slot remains on iMacs. I purchased a few of these security locks to try out on some of our other laptops and desktops.

Backup all the things!

logo-backblaze-bigIn addition to the data I had on the SSD drive of the laptop, I had a 64GB micro-sd card in the SD card slot on the Macbook to give me additional storage. The thief had no sign that was there, but that was just more lost data for me.

Thankfully, I’ve been using Backblaze for years to backup all the computers in my office. For $5 a month, you can’t go wrong. Backblaze has literally saved my life over the last two weeks. I was able to quickly restore just the files I needed to get some work done, and then over time I’ve restored more and more data as I’ve needed it.

Backblaze is great because they allow you to download your data, or you can have them send you your data on a USB drive or an external hard drive. That’s super helpful if you’re restoring gigabytes of data.

I’ve written about backing up your data before. If you’re not, you will eventually pay the price.

Erase all the things!

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If you are using a Mac, and you use Apple’s Find my iPhone feature, you can attempt to locate the laptop. This is probably more helpful when searching for a phone – after all they have GPS in them – but my laptop was set to alert me the next time it got online.

Thanks to Apple, I told iCloud to erase my entire device the moment it got online via wired or wireless. No one has tried to connect it to Wifi yet, that I can tell. I had the Wifi turned off, and if the person who has it has never used a Mac before, they may not know how to switch it on.

In Closing

Losing your laptop sucks. Plain and simple. It feels awful. But there are things you can do to help mitigate the pain and downtime. Protect yourself and your data, and please backup your data regularly.

1 thought on “Surviving a Stolen Laptop”

  1. Hi Mike,

    My name is Eva Schweber and I work for AgileBits, the folks who make 1Password.

    I’m so sorry to read about your stolen laptop, but I am glad to hear that 1Password made your recovery process just a little bit less painful.

    Best wishes,
    Eva Schweber
    Good Witch of the Pacific Northwest @ AgileBits
    1Password remembers all your passwords for you.
    It keeps your digital life secure and always available,
    safe behind the one password that only you know.

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