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Don't get Apple picked: How to protect your Mac from theft in public places

Ben Boychuk | Feb. 21, 2013
Protecting your Mac from theft in public places might seem like a pain, but taking a few steps can save you a lot of hassle down the road, as Ben Boychuk learned firsthand

Orbicule's Undercover 5 costs $49 a year for a single license, and $59 to protect up to five Macs. Undercover allows you to set up a theft report, which can deliver periodic photos, keylogs, and locations directly to your local police department if you happen to have your investigating officer's email address. But the app also offers a clever "Plan B" feature, which simulates a hardware failure on the device. Because most thieves aren't exactly criminal masterminds, they might be inclined to take the computer in for repair. When that happens, Undercover allows you to display a message notifying the user--or the repair technician, in this case--that the machine is stolen and locked.

Absolute Software's LoJack for Laptops uses a combination of software and human intelligence to locate your stolen device. If your Mac is stolen, the onus is on Absolute's recovery team to work with police to track down the system. The service comes in standard and premium editions, with the latter including a $1000 guarantee for $50 a year.

Safeguard your data

With your laptop in the hands of thieves, your other immediate concern is recovering any lost data. The fact is, police say, most thieves aren't interested in your data or personal information. They're looking for a quick and easy score, with the going rate for a stolen MacBook about $100.

Because my laptop was new, I didn't lose much data. Also, I use Dropbox's cloud-storage service. With plans starting at $10 a month (or $99 a year up front) for 100GB of storage, Dropbox provides a convenient way to sync and share files among several devices. Google Drive supplies 100GB for $5 a month, but, unlike Dropbox, limits file sizes to 10GB. Apple's own iCloud premium service offers quite a bit less for quite a lot more--20GB for $40 a year, or just 50GB for $100 a year. But iCloud, of course, includes other features, such as space to back up your iOS devices.

Lock it down

Within a week, I had my replacement MacBook Pro. The same day the new laptop arrived, a police detective notified me that he had several subjects in custody "on unrelated crimes."

Even if the culprits are off the streets, however, there's no point in taking chances. So I invested in a good laptop lock. Unfortunately, while the older MacBook Pro models still have a security slot, the marvelously slim and lightweight MacBook Airs and the new Retina-display MacBook Pros do not.

Kensington, which makes a variety of locks, appears to have a solution for almost everything. Its laptop locks range in price from $30 to $60, and come with keys or use combinations. Wrap the 6-foot steel cable around a secure table leg, and all but the most obtuse thieves should leave you alone. Most Apple Stores sell Kensington's $30 combination-lock model, but it isn't displayed on the floor; you have to ask for it.

 

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