Paul Wherly

The Lessons Learned from Losing a Laptop

Today’s Guest Blog is brought to you courtesy of Mark Williams of Pensar IT – one of our partners – an IT support company based in Central London.

There’s a common saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. We could apply this to different aspects in our lives, but no more so than our personal technology devices, which for many people are like an extra limb. We’ve talked to Richard Tubb, founder of Tubblog, about how difficult your life can be if you lose one of your tech treasures.

Lesson #1– Keep your belongings with you at all times!

I was presenting at an IT industry event at a very prestigious venue in London. My presentation was just before lunch, and arriving early I dropped my laptop bag alongside those of many of my colleagues near the event registration desk. About an hour before my presentation, I went to retrieve my laptop and in horror discovered that it was no longer there. My heart sank – not only had a £1,000+ worth of laptop gone, but all my valuable mobile accessories. More importantly, my presentation due to be delivered in 30 minutes time had gone with it!

Lesson #2 – Know how to quickly access your Data Backups

Ironically (given I was about to give a presentation on Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery) I had stored a backup copy of my presentation in the Cloud. Borrowing a laptop, and using a Wi-Fi connection, I logged on to recover the presentation. Or at least I would have if I could find how on earth you actually logged on to the particular cloud service from a web browser. When I needed to access my backup in a hurry, the stress of trying to find out how to do so is most unwelcome.

Thankfully I finally found the correct login web-site, and thanks to having my password information stored on my iPad (which was safely in my possession) I could logon to the site, grab a copy of the presentation and copy it to a flash drive ready to go on stage with.

Lesson #3 – Maintain an accurate record of your high value goods

Over lunch, my friends and I scouted around again and with no luck in finding my laptop, I finally resigned myself to the fact that it had gone and contacted hotel security. I reported my laptop stolen with the local Police Station who asked for specifics of the laptop.

Luckily, I’d recorded the serial numbers and other specifics of not only the laptop, but my Flip HD camcorder which was also in the laptop bag, on Immobilise – the web-site of the UK National Property Register.

Having this information easily to hand via my iPad meant I was able to describe the laptop and give all pertinent information quickly, as well as tag the laptop and camcorder as stolen. In the event that the stolen laptop turned up at a Police Station, it could be identified as mine.

Lesson #4 – Your Data is more valuable than your hardware. Protect it accordingly!

The laptop was password protected, and all data backed up to the Cloud, but it is not too difficult to access a file system using tools outside of Windows, nor to crack a Windows password to gain full access to a system. Chances were that any thief would be stealing the laptop for the hardware, not the data, but that sinking feeling that you get when you realise this data is confidential is definitely not a nice one. I really wish I’d have gotten round to encrypting it as I kept promising I would …

Lesson #5 – Install Tracking Software on your devices before you lose them!

Then I recalled I’d installed tracking software on my laptop. If the laptop was connected to the internet at all I’d be able to track where it was and even take a screenshot of whomever was using the laptop via its webcam, but more importantly, I could remotely lock the laptop to hinder any attempt to access the data upon it.

Lesson #6 – Insure your Tech, and make sure your Insurance Schedule is current

I reported the laptop lost on the tracking website, and waited for it to report back. The likelihood that it ever would be was admittedly slim, but at least I wasn’t kicking myself that I’d not bothered to install that tracking software which takes all of a couple of minutes to install!

When I got back home later that weekend I dug out my insurance paperwork and prepared to make a claim. Thankfully I’d retained all details of my purchases, and in many instances, the original purchase receipts (including such things as the hard drive and memory upgrades I’d installed in the laptop) – so I’d be able to make a full claim for the items. I’d also set a diary reminder at the time of my insurance renewal earlier in the year to make sure the contents schedule was up to date – useful if you’re always updating your tech, as I am.

Lesson #7 – Social Media helps connect the world in the most unexpected ways!

Now for most people, the story would end here with an insurance claim and the purchase of a new laptop and the inevitable hope (and prayer) that the confidential data contained on the lost laptop would never fall into the wrong hands. But a few days later, whilst I was away travelling on business, I received an email from a truly lovely lady entitled “Are you missing a laptop?”

The email went on to explain how this woman worked for a training company in London who had run a student event at the venue at the same time as the conference at I was speaking, and whilst sorting out equipment brought back from the venue, she had spotted that they’d acquired an additional laptop!

Powering the laptop up, she had spotted my name on the login screen and then Googled it. My blog post about my speaking at the event had come up as the first search engine hit, and she put two-and-two together and got in touch via the contact details on my blog to see if it was indeed my laptop.

Lesson #8 – There are some genuinely helpful and wonderful people in the world

Thanking this lady profusely for taking the time and effort to track me down, one of my friends in London heard about my predicament and offered to retrieve the laptop from her nearby – going out of his way to organise all the details with her directly. A week later, I was re-united with my laptop! Thankfully I got away without losing any possessions or more importantly, confidential data. But I learned a number of really valuable lessons about what it feels like to lose mobile devices and data.

We hope you’ll find the story above thought provoking in terms of how you view your own data and devices, and help give you the peace of mind that you’re doing all you can to protect yourself. For details on specific solutions to help you safeguard yourself, please Pensar.

Note: This article is adapted from the original with kind permission from Richard Tubb.

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