2/25/08
10:33 am

MacMost Now 48: Protecting Your MacBook While Traveling

Gary Rosenzweig looks at ways to protect your MacBook from being stolen, and how to prepare for the worst. Methods include: cable locks, security software, backing up and insurance.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi, this is Gary Rosenzweig. Do you have a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air If so, you probably travel with them. I mean, that's one of the advantages of having a portable computer. But when you travel with them every once in a while you need to leave them alone, maybe in your hotel room. Do you worry about security? Let's take a look at ways to secure your MacBook in this episode of MacMost Now.
First method is simply to lock it down. You may want to use some sort of security lock, like this one, from Kensington. What a security lock will do is it will fit into a small slot in the corner of your MacBook or MacBook Pro, and then you can loop the cable around something in the hotel room. Now, a lot of hotel rooms seem to go out of their way to have nothing to lock it down to. There's desk with legs with no loops in them, or bed frames that don't allow you to get them. But, if you're clever enough you can find something to lock it to, and maybe even hide it. But of course, any thief can really get by these very easily. There's some ways to unlock some of the less secure ones, and there's also always bolt cutters you can just through 'em. It helps to hide but, but, again, any thief is gonna be able to find any hiding spot in your hotel room within 30 seconds. However, it does stop crimes of opportunity. In other words, if somebody happens into your room, maybe the door is left open by the maid, or maybe it's a hotel employee's last day and they decide to take some stuff with them, this will stop them from getting yours and maybe they'll go to the next room and get an easier laptop to take. You can find lots of these lock and cables by just simply searching Amazon or some other online store for laptop locks. But, on a MacBook Air, you don't have the connection to allow you to hook one of these things up. There is a solution though. You can make your own by getting the Kensington kit here that will allow you to superglue a small locking dock onto your MacBook Air, if you wanted to do that.
Now this method may not stop your laptop from getting stolen, but it may help you get it back. A company called verity has the solution at bak2u.com. It's a piece of software you install in the machine and when you boot it up it asks for a password. Get it wrong, and it assumes the machine has been stolen. It then takes all this information from surrounding Wi-Fi hotspots, and it takes on video footage from a camera in the MacBook and sends it all to an email address or even a Twitter account. Then you might be able to use the information to help you get your laptop back. It's not a perfect solution, because of course the machine could always be wiped clean or be put out of range of any sort of Wi-Fi or internet connection, but at least it gives you a fighting chance. I like that.
Now I'm convinced the best method to protect yourself is not to car at all. So the first thing you want to do is make sure your MacBook's insured. I mean, check your homeowners insurance, your renter's insurance, or your small business insurance. See if in fact it's insured if it's stolen when it's on a trip. If it's not, see how much it'll cost to add it. It might not be that much. Now probably the most valuable thing is not the laptop itself, but actually the data on it. There's several ways to secure that. First thing you want to do is make sure you do a backup before you go on a trip. So, if your laptop's stolen and you haven't done any new work, you can just shrug it off and say, oh well, I'll get a new one, and I'll re-store all the work I had on it. You can also back it up as you go. I find that a large capacity iPod is a perfect device, or you can just get a small hard drive to do that on and store the hard drive in a separate location from your laptop so chances are less that they're both stolen. Now, if you've got all your stuff backed up all you have to worry about is somebody stealing your stuff, like maybe some of your data. Well, one of the ways you can protect yourself against that is you can go in system preferences and select security, and security will allow you to turn on something called FileVault. FileVault will encrypt all your data. Now there are some downsides to this, like for instance, it'll really slow down your hard drive. When I did this with an older PowerBook, I was no longer able to capture video because FileVault slowed it down too much. One option is to set up a separate account and have that protected by FileVault and do all your important things on that account. Another thing you can do is you can look back a couple episodes of MacMost Now and see how you can create a disc image that's protected, make sure that's all safe. You can also use a password protector to protect some of your important passwords. But, the very least, go into your system preferences, and go into accounts, and in accounts set your login options so that you have to log in and it automatically will be set up that you need to log in say when the machine wakes from sleep. So you put your machine to sleep, you know if somebody steals your laptop, the only way for them to get to the data is either to severely hack it or to know your password.
There are other options as well. For instance, sometimes your hotel has a safe in the closet in your hotel room. OF course these are usually too small to handle the 17 inch MacBook Pros. Another option is to leave it at the front desk if they have a secure area and you feel that it's safer there than in your room. If you're traveling with a rental car, be worried about leaving it in the car because of course, you may not know the neighborhood that well and it could be very easy for somebody to break in and take the laptop from your car. This is where maybe the MacBook Air might be the most secure laptop because it's so light it's easy to carry with you even if you're going out to dinner.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Note that you can go to GadgetTrak.com for more information on the Verery security software.

Comments: 5 Responses to “MacMost Now 48: Protecting Your MacBook While Traveling”

    John Santini
    8/23/11 @ 8:23 am

    Gary:
    My daughter is leaving for college soon. Can you recommend a lock for her Apple laptop?

    Thank you,
    John

      8/23/11 @ 8:28 am

      I don’t have any recommendation. They are all probably pretty much the same.
      What is much more important is a backup drive. Make sure she backs up using Time Machine to an external drive. And make sure she does it daily, if not several times per day. What is worse than having a laptop stolen is having it stolen along with that important term paper on it.
      Actually, what I would do is to have her use a DropBox account to store her school documents. Then it acts like a backup as the files will still be there “in the cloud” if her laptop is stolen or breaks.

    Richard24
    5/2/12 @ 5:15 pm

    Just take it with you. I put mine in the trunk of car with storages case.

    Andy
    7/2/12 @ 2:20 am

    Any recommendations for locking the new Macbook Pros ? It seems they dont have standard locking points any more

      7/2/12 @ 6:40 am

      I haven’t seen anything. I always considered those laptop physical locks to be a bit ridiculous as a good pair of cable cutters could usually snap the cables so easily.

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