Information Technology and Services

ITS News

Protect yourself from digital device theft

Oct 3, 2011 2:29 PM

Computer thiefAs the number and value of mobile computing devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones continue to grow across campus, so does the risk and incidence of device theft.  You can protect your devices from theft, and yourself from resulting data loss and identity theft, by following this advice.

  • Keep your devices close at hand.  Don’t leave them alone, even for a minute. 
  • Keep your devices out of sight when you’re not using them. A cabinet or drawer is ideal, especially if it can be locked.
  • Label or tag your devices with your name and phone number (NOT your social security number). This not only deters casual thieves, it makes it easier to identify your property if it is stolen or lost and recovered, and may prevent it from simply being resold over the internet via an online auction. FBI statistics indicate that 97% of unmarked computers are never recovered.  Use a permanent marking or engraving, or metal, tamper-resistant commercial asset tags. Stop Theft tags, available at the SU Bookstore, have proved effective.
  • Register your devices with their manufacturers. Registering will "flag" a device and if it is ever sent in for service increases the chance you’ll get it back. If your device is stolen or lost, be sure to notify the manufacturer.
  • Record your serial numbers and store them in a safe place. In the event your device is stolen, the police can use serial numbers to identify your stuff and get it back to you. If you bought your computer at the SU Bookstore they keep a record of your serial number should you need it.
  • Record your Media Access Control address (MAC address) and store it in a safe place.  On handhelds and tablets this is also known as the Wi-Fi Address. The MAC address is a unique identifier that differentiates a device from all other devices. This address is visible to network administrators, enabling detection of specific devices and their physical location. To find out your device’s MAC address, follow the instructions at https://answers.syr.edu/x/soZs.
  • Install and use tracking and recovery software and apps like LoJack (available at the SU Bookstore) or Prey to help find and recover your gear.  There are both paid and free versions of this type of software, and each provides different levels of features.  Search online to find the best combination of cost and functions to meet your needs.
  • Use a security cable on your laptop. Make it a habit of locking your laptop, even when you’re working on it, regardless of where you are. Be sure to tether your laptop to a strong, unbreakable object that won’t move. Do not leave your device unattended.  Security cables and locks are available at the SU Bookstore.
  • Back up your data. Often!  That way, even if your device is stolen you won’t lose the information it carries.
  • Protect your personal data with the disc encryption feature that’s included with your computer’s operating system, such as BitLocker for Windows or FileVault for Macs. That way, nobody but you can see or copy the files or information on your device.
  • Use passwords on your devices to prevent unauthorized access to your data.  Thieves’ access and misuse of your data could prove even more damaging and expensive than the loss of your hardware.
  • If your device has “remote wipe” capabilities, which allow you to log in to an online account and erase the data on your device, set it up to use this service.  And use it as soon as you discover the device is stolen or missing. Depending on your device, this may be free or available for purchase.

If your device is stolen, IMMEDIATELY contact:

  • SU’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) at 005 Sims Hall, (315) 443-2224. 
  • SU’s Information Technology and Services Department at ndd@listserv.syr.edu. Their Networking team may be able to find the missing device.

Quickly contact both DPS and the ITS Networking team with as much as you know about the device (MAC addresses, serial numbers, stored user credentials for AirOrangeX, where it was last used, time and location of theft, and your name, street address, email address and phone number). Your speedy report will increase the likelihood that your device will be recovered, and may help prevent others from becoming victims.


Article by: Christopher Finkle

Contact Information: ITS Service Center, help@syr.edu, (315) 443-2677