4 simple steps to bulletproof laptop security
Follow these tips, tools, and techniques to protect your Windows notebook against theft, intrusion, and data loss
The TrueCrypt encryption process can be suspended and resumed at your convenience, even across multiple reboots.
Laptop security step No. 4: Theft and loss recovery
One final layer of protection you can add to a notebook is what to do if it's lost or stolen. Since notebooks are lost and stolen a lot more regularly than their desktop counterparts (which goes hand in hand with the fact that they're portable), it makes sense to either protect them from being lost in the first place or to make sure they can be recovered if they go missing.
Theft recovery for a notebook can take roughly two forms: a service or an application. Sometimes you have one as an extension of the other, but those two basic incarnations are the most common.
On the service side, there's a system I've used for some years now: StuffBak. With StuffBak, you buy special stickers -- made of the same metal foil as industrial inventory-control tags -- that come with serial numbers. You attach one such sticker to your notebook in a conspicuous place, then register the device with StuffBak's website. If the device goes missing, you can log into the website and report it as lost. The sticker itself sports the words "Reward for return!" along with an 800 number and the Stuffbak website's URL.
If a Good Samaritan finds the device and reports it as found, they can claim a reward for returning it. You set the reward amount, and StuffBak handles all the shipping logistics; whoever finds it doesn't ever have to know your name or address. It's all completely hands-off.
The StuffBak sticker on the front face of my Toshiba laptop provides a way for a Good Samaritan to return it and claim a reward.
StuffBak has a few different grades of service depending on how many items you have to protect. A basic pack of labels comes with lifetime item registration and two years of free returns, but you can buy additional levels of protection and recovery services depending on your needs. Some PC makers are now adding features like this to notebooks out of the box. Sony, for instance, includes TrackItBack recovery labels on many of its new notebooks.
The one major drawback to StuffBak (and other services of its kind) is that it depends entirely on the good graces of whoever finds your hardware. Sure, your lost or stolen laptop might end up in the hands of an upstanding citizen or at least one who will respond to the offer of a reward. Unfortunately, not everyone is motivated to be so helpful. That's why it makes sense, at least from my point of view, to also use software that can help find your computer if it goes missing.
I've since settled on the application-and-service combo known as Prey, which provides protection for both PCs and phones. You install the open source Prey software on the machines you want to track, then register each machine with Prey's website. If one of the devices goes missing, you note it as such on the site and can activate a whole slew of possible recovery mechanisms: