THE laptop and mobile phone have overtaken the family dog as "man's best friend".
But the theft of these and related personal gadgets has also increased drastically. High unemployment in Zimbabwe, and economic problems are contributing to the sharp increase in the theft of these gadgets, which have become a target for thieves.
They are small, valuable, are easily hidden and have a ready market. A thief can sell a stolen laptop or other device to second hand dealers and receive up to half its value in cash. Criminals know that the penalties for theft of these devices are light.
Facts that you need to know
A laptop and a mobile device have a one in 10 chance of being stolen.
Nearly half of all laptop and mobile device thefts occur in offices or classrooms.
98% of stolen laptops are never recovered.
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Laptops have a higher rate of security problems than desktop workstations.
The cost of a stolen tablet or laptop is not just its replacement cost, but also the cost of peripherals and accessories, such as software. An even greater cost is potential exposure and liability that results from lost confidential corporate and client information for corporates.
How can you reduce the risk?
Many times we think about what we could have done to prevent valuables from being stolen. Here are a few tips to help you protect your personal electronics devices and laptops:
Do not board informal taxies when you have your laptop or electronic mobile device. You will be robbed.
Do not leave your devices in your vehicle, locked or unlocked.
If you must leave your devices in a vehicle, the best place will be the boot. If you do not have a boot, try to conceal them or fit them under a seat and lock the doors. My personal advice is just do not leave them in the vehicle.
Do not drive or travel with your laptop or mobile device visible on the passenger seat. Whether windows are closed or open, they thieves will steal them.
Carry your devices in a nondescript carrying case, briefcase or bag when moving about, especially in our town centres. Placing these items in a case designed for computers is an immediate alert to thieves. In short, throw away that laptop bag.
Do not ever leave a meeting or conference room without your laptop or personal electronics, take them with you.
Lock your device in a safe place when not in use or use a cable lock that wraps around a desk or chair leg.
Apply distinctive paint markings (such as indelible markers) to make your laptop unique and easily identifiable.
Consider purchasing a theft alarm system, specially made for laptops and other electronics. Also consider two-way wireless security alarms for laptops. If the alarm detects movement, it first checks whether you are nearby. If not, your keychain remote is alerted. The alarm can also be set to trigger solely on detecting motion.
Commercially available software can also provide a means of protecting your devices from intrusion and prevent thieves from getting to your personal data. Most mobile devices include the ability to remotely “wipe” or erase the data from the mobile phone or tablet should your device be lost or stolen.
Always use a password to protect your portable device against unauthorised use.
If a theft occurs, report it immediately to your nearest police station. Device owners should have the make, model, and serial number available so police can file a complete report and record the stolen electronic device information immediately.
If it is believed your phone is still active, the police may request that you do not cancel your service immediately in order to assist with the investigation.
For those who travel, beware of a theft process that is executed when approaching the X-ray scanner at the airport: The first person passes through the scanner quickly. The second person moves slowly, being delayed by pockets full of keys and other things. Meanwhile, the travellers stuck behind him have already placed their belongings — including laptops, mobile phones and tablets — on the conveyor belt.
The first thief picks up the laptop and/or your electronic mobile devices as if it were his own and walks away while the other thief continues to hold the line back.
To prevent this kind of theft, only put your laptop or mobile device on the conveyor belt when you are next in line and keep your eye on your laptop, tablet, or other electronics as they come off the conveyor belt. Alert security personnel immediately if you think someone is attempting to steal your devices.
It is your duty to secure and protect your electronic gadgets.
Be a smart traveller, safeguard your belongings.
Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd. He is the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers