Sunday night outside my Seattle apartment, my car was broken into and my backpack was stolen with my MacBook Pro inside. This story ends somewhat happily, as my laptop was recovered by police within four hours of reporting the burglary, but the point of the post is to encourage all readers to protect their tech.
I’ve long been someone who thinks along the lines of “bad things will never happen to me.” Shows what I know, though. Last month, I wrote about how my bicycle was stolen from my apartment building and I was using technology to help find it (it never was recovered, though.)
I had a little more luck this time, however. Luckily, I had Apple’s Find My Mac feature enabled on my laptop. Immediately after discovering my belongings had been taken from my car, I logged into iCloud and looked to see if my MacBook was online. At the moment, it was not, so I requested to be alerted if the device connected to the web, and also set my laptop to wipe the hard drive when connected.
About four hours after filing my police report, I received a push notification on my iPhone that by MacBook had connected to the Internet. The notification linked to a map with the approximate location and an approximate address of my device. The location was in the community of Renton, 20 miles away, but was precise enough for me to call the Renton, Wash. police department and gave them the details. The officer I spoke with requested my iCloud login details, and said she would ping my device to play a sound as she walked through the neighborhood listening.
An hour later, the officer called. She had my laptop. As I said, I got lucky.
I’ve spent a good part of today reading about solutions to find stolen laptops. This article from Techradar does a good job of explaining how authorities and professionals often use Lojack for Laptops to recover stolen devices at upwards of a 75 percent success rate. The article also notes that people frequently attempt to go vigilante and recover their own devices with Apple’s Find My Device features, and that can be a dangerous proposition.
At this point, I am considering going to a paid solution for tracking my laptop in the event that it ever goes missing again. Absolute Software’s Lojack offering is tempting in large part because of the information contained in the Techradar article. Lojack uses a cadre of former law enforcement officials to track down your device when it is reported missing. It uses sophisticated firmware-based software to be pretty persistent in tracking a missing device, even if hardware such as the hard drive is swapped out of the computer. Moreover, Lojack offers a $1,000 guarantee on your missing device, which can be a comforting safety net in the event of theft.
In the meantime, I have already installed the open source Prey Project on my laptop. The Prey Project installs on your machine, and has some controls that can be activated if your device is reported missing such as taking screen shots and taking webcam shots intermittently and reporting back to the owner. The free version of Prey Project will make 10 such reports available at any given time.
I never thought this type of theft would happen to me. I feel violated and while I was lucky enough to get my laptop back, I will most likely never get my backpack, my Kindle Paperwhite, my books, and several other belongings back. Nor will I avoid the cost of replacing my broken window or re-purchasing a new AC adapter and Magic Mouse. But I can help ensure that if this ever happens again, I will have an increased likelihood of tracking down my device again.
If I can encourage any ZAGGblog readers to take similar steps to protect themselves, it will be all the better.