Laptop Lockdown

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    Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a fair bit of outrage over laptops and cellphones going missing. Of course, we don’t exactly make it difficult for prospective thieves, leaving our doors and cupboards unlocked and our gadgets lying carelessly all over our room (or someone else’s room, or in the convo, SAC or Tinkerer’s lab…well, you get the picture). Maybe we’ll see a sudden spike in the use of laptop harnesses, security cables and locks, considering the mood at the moment, but by and large, when the dust settles, we’ll tend to fall back into our old ways.

    Immediate Steps:
    So, your laptop’s been stolen. What now? Immediate assistance can be procured by contacting IIT-B’s Quick Response Team (QRT), which operates 24/7. Calling their helpline (+91-9167398598/9) will get you an immediate response, whatever the time be. Once you’ve explained your situation and given them the relevant details, you’ll need to file a written complaint at the Security Office during working hours. You’ll also have to register a complaint at the Powai police station, since they’re the ones with the legal authority to take action in case the person responsible is found. It’ll also make it easier for the Security Office to coordinate with them in case they need assistance or resources.

    The chances of you finding your laptop will depend on how much information you’re able to provide, other than the standard questions of ‘When did you last see it?’ and ‘Who could have been around your laptop when it went missing?’. If you’ve managed to preserve your bill or warranty information, you’d be able to provide the unique serial number or service tag, which will undoubtedly make the process smoother.

    Tracking The Culprit:
    If you haven’t had the foresight or opportunity to install any form of anti-theft software, you can try tracking it using some of the more common tools:

    • A Quick Heal initiative, this site can be used by both Quick Heal and non Quick Heal users, as well as users of second hand laptops and cyber crime authorities. This service uses your laptop’s MAC ID to trace it. MAC (Media Access Control) address is a number that identifies the network adapter(s) installed on your computer. But, while this is automatically stored for Quick Heal users, non-users need to provide it. Best part? It’s free (at least for now!).
    • Use Dropbox, Facebook or Gmail to get the IP address (Mac and Windows):
      If you’re one of those people who’s surgically attached to their social media sites, you might just have a way to track your laptop. As long as you were logged into one of these and had it open(ed), there’s a good chance you can find your laptop’s current IP address.
      1. Dropbox: For any desktop user, Dropbox keeps track of all current and past sessions, along with the country of origin and IP address. So, go to Security tab in Settings in your account. One of the devices listed as having accessed your account will be your laptop.
      2. Facebook: Again, go to Security in Settings. Click on “Where You’re Logged In”, and you’ll get a list of the devices and apps on which you last accessed your account. Hovering your cursor over the city will get you the IP address.
      3. Gmail: Like Dropbox, Gmail keeps track of the IP addresses that last accessed your account. The “Details” tab under “Last account activity” in your Inbox, found at the bottom right corner, will give you the ten last recorded sessions along with the IP addresses used.

      Unfortunately, an IP address doesn’t give you a physical address. That info is with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and you need a warrant to access it, for which you’ll need the police

    • Using iCloud(for Mac users): As long as you have “Find My Mac” enabled in your iCloud account, you can use it to track your macbook. Log in to the iCloud site, and click on the “Find My iPhone” icon: if your laptop is on and connected to the internet, it’ll display the location. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t provide an integrated tracking service, so Windows users will have to rely on third party software. Same goes for Linux or Chromebook users.
    • Most accounts like Youtube, Flickr, etc. track your session activity, and may help you locate your laptop if it automatically logs into the same.

    Anti-theft Softwares and Protecting Your Data:
    Hopefully, you had one of these installed in your laptop. Their functions can range from helping you to track down your missing laptop to protecting the data that’s on it, or in a dire case, wipe it completely. As far as the tracking functionality goes, the most popular ones are:

    Along with these, other softwares like LaptopLock allow you to protect your data remotely by encrypting or deleting it. Most standard security services like Norton and Avast give you options for tracking your devices, or recovering and protecting data, respectively. For laptops with an Intel core processor, Intel’s built-in Anti Theft technology allows you to essentially disable a lost or stolen PC to protect your data. It’s recommended that you do keep some form of encryption on your sensitive data if you store it offline.

    If you do manage to track your laptop, don’t try to retrieve it yourself. You can give the info directly to the police following up your complaint, or to the Security Office, who will pass it on with their added weight. You can also notify the laptop manufacturer, on the off chance that it turns up for service.

    As far as this issue goes, the tired advice of ‘Be careful’, ‘Lock up your room’, etc. is actually pretty valid. Since, hostel common areas lack CCTV surveillance, and the entry and exit of students and the like are pretty difficult to filter, opportunities for such thefts aren’t hard to come by; especially during lecture hours or other times of common absence. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.