Whether you're a student, road warrior or just someone who likes to use gadgets on the go, leaving your tech unattended is never a good idea. However, there will be times when you have to step away from your stuff.
Sometimes, just looking away for an instant could result in a lost or stolen device. Then there's outright theft. Last year, one in five robberies in New York City, and a staggering one in two robberies in San Francisco, involved a cellphone. And with one in 10 laptops stolen, you'll want better protection for your tech. The following collection of services, apps and gear can help safeguard your gadgets against theft or recover them if they're lost or stolen.
The subscription-based Absolute Software Computrace Lojack can prevent your notebook from pulling a vanishing act. If some crook is brazen enough to walk off with your laptop, you can remotely lock, locate or erase the contents of your Mac or PC. The software is also making the leap to tablets and smartphones, starting with a debut on the Samsung Galaxy S4. In addition, the company is working with educators to roll out its Computrace Mobile Theft Management software to protect school-issued iPads and iPad minis.
In a perfect world, students could leave their laptops in the study hall or library without worrying. But in the real world, you have to take precautions. Investing in an accessory like the Kensington WordLock Portable Combination Laptop Lock is a relatively cheap way to make sure your laptop stays put. Simply wrap the 6-inch cord around a sturdy table or workspace, and secure it to your notebook's lock slot for instant peace of mind. If your laptop doesn't have a lock slot, check out Kensington's Security Slot Adapter ($12.99), which attaches to your laptop's lid.
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Apple's Find My iPhone app is the gold standard of anti-theft protection. The app has been featured in the news on numerous occasions for its ability to reunite phones with their owners and put would-be thieves out of commission. When activated, the app shows users where their device is located on a map. The app also has a Lost mode that remotely locks the handset and sends contact info to the phone so the person who finds the device can return it. A Ping function makes the phone emit a loud noise for 2 minutes. And with the upcoming iOS 7 update, would-be thieves will need to know your Apple ID and password to erase your device or reactivate it.
Reselling flagship smartphones like the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One has become a lucrative market for thieves. That means a lock-screen password just isn't going to cut it anymore. This is where Lookout Mobile comes in. The free app outfits your smartphone with a number of features designed to help you get your device back. The Locate feature shows your phone's approximate location on Google Maps, even if the battery's dying. If someone attempts to access your phone's data, the webcam will snap a picture of the intruder and email it to you.
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At $250, the Ultimatesafe backpack is a little pricey, but it's a small price to pay to keep your gear from going missing. Anti-theft features include a slash-proof exoskeleton and straps with an RFID-blocking pocket to prevent potential identity theft. There's also the smart zipper security system, which hooks the zipper onto a secure latch, thwarting any pickpocketing attempts. The bag has plenty of pockets and compartments to house all your gear, including a removable, slash-proof laptop sleeve.
Though noisy, an alarm can help deter even the most determined thief. LAlarm enables your notebook to sound an alarm and rally the troops when accosted by a sticky-fingered miscreant. The free software features seven alarms (Theft, Perimeter, Inattention, Battery, Disc, Health and Panic) designed to handle just about every contingency. If your gear is pilfered, you can remotely recover or destroy important data.
If someone does manage to snatch your tech, all is not lost — provided you've tagged it with an easily identifiable mark. Laptop and tablet owners should consider buying a STOP Security Plate. [slideshow id="undefined"]According to company claims, it takes 800 lbs. of pressure to remove the innocuous-looking plate from your gear. If some resourceful rogue does manage to remove the tag, there's a stolen property tattoo underneath that will put a damper on any resale attempts.