In 2001, Safeware ( estimated that thieves stole over 500,000 laptops for that year but only 15,000 desktop computers. Laptops make the most obvious and enticing targets because of their small size, light weight, and high resale value, so if you're traveling with a laptop in public, do your best to hide it.

Walk through any airport and you'll see many people carrying their laptops in distinctive black carrying cases, easily recognizable to a thief and nearly impossible to identify by sight if stolen. Instead of carrying your laptop in a case that screams out "Laptop! Steal me!" put it in an ordinary briefcase or backpack, or even in a paper shopping bag to disguise it as a souvenir from an overpriced airport gift shop.

If you're going to lose your laptop in an airport, the most likely place will be at the metal detectors. One person will step in front of you, loaded down with pockets full of metal objects (keys or coins), and wait until you pass your laptop on the conveyor belt for the X-ray machine. Then, while he beeps the metal detector and delays the passengers behind him (including you), an accomplice on the other side of the detector picks up your laptop at the end of the conveyer belt. By the time you get through the metal detector, your laptop is gone-in its unidentifiable black case.

To get through the airport security checkpoints, go in pairs. Have a friend get through it first who can grab your laptop when it gets through the X-ray machine. That way a thief won't be able to grab it first and run off with it.

Laptop alarms

But what if, despite your best efforts, your laptop gets stolen anyway? One option is to try an alarm, like the one sold by TrackIT ( or Caveo ( Unlike desktop computer alarms, laptop alarms consist of two parts: a sensor attached to your laptop and another sensor carried by you (attached to your keychain or kept in your pocket). The moment your laptop gets separated from you by a fixed distance (such as 15 feet), an alarm in the laptop screams out. If this doesn't cause the thief to drop the laptop right away, it calls your attention to your laptop and allows you to follow its piercing whine to retrieve it.

If the thief does get away with the laptop, the motion detection alarm can password-protect and encrypt your hard disk. Now if a thief tries to use the laptop, the password prevents access and the encrypted hard disk prevents anyone from copying any data.

Remote tracking services

Another protective mechanism is a tracing or monitoring program that buries itself on your laptop computer's hard drive. Every time you connect to the Internet, the tracking program contacts a special server and sends the IP address of the current laptop computer's location. The moment you report your laptop stolen, the server waits for your laptop to contact it again. Once the server receives the IP address of the laptop computer's current location, the company contacts the authorities to help track down the missing laptop computer.

Some remote tracking programs even go one step further. Once they receive an IP address from the stolen laptop, the servers can send a command to the remote tracking program to shut off the speakers and search for a telephone line connection. Then the laptop silently dials a phone number that allows the server to trace the phone number to further pinpoint the laptop computer's location.

For added security, the server can also command the remote tracking software to encrypt your hard disk to prevent the thief from accessing any of your data. That way, even if you don't get your laptop back, at least you can rest assured that no one will be able to steal any data on your laptop either.

For more information about various remote tracking programs available for laptop computers, visit the following sites:

Absolute Protect

Absolute Software

CyberAngel Security Solutions

zTrace Technologies