As our society becomes more electronically dependent, the theft of electronic devices becomes more problematic from a variety of standpoints. The replacement of the devices themselves can be stressful, especially for those in our community with limited personal financial resources. The loss of data, however, can be more damaging both monetarily and personally, and more difficult to replace. Within the last three years, there have been more than 450 laptop thefts reported to the UCLA Police Department. Many missing computers either go unreported or are reported to other agencies, so it is likely that the incidence of laptop computer theft among the University population is actually higher than UCLA’s statistics show. More recently, the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers have introduced a new target for thieves.
There are three things to consider when trying to prevent or mitigate the theft of valuable electronics:
- Deterrence. The first line of defense is to deter the theft of the device in the first place. Computers and tablets should never be left unattended in public places or semi-public areas. On campus, computers are often reported stolen from libraries, campus restaurants, and from outside of Residence Hall Dining areas. In almost all of these cases, the computer was sitting unsecured in a public area. It is usually possible to either secure the computer in a lockable enclosure or carry it along with you. Similarly, computers and other valuable electronics should not be left visible within vehicles. Smartphones can be seen while the user is texting or talking in a public but isolated location and are an occasional target for robbery. Care should be used when engaging in any activity that both exposes an attractive object for theft and distracts the owner from paying attention to their surroundings in a public place.
- Hardware Recovery. If a computer goes missing or is stolen, commercially available software like Lojack for Laptops can be used either by the user or the Police to help locate the missing computer if it is connected to the internet. UCLA has purchased user rights for a software tracking program from Front Door Software, which is available to everyone in the UCLA community with a “ucla.edu” email address and can be downloaded at www.frontdoorsoftware.com/ucla at no further cost to the user. Many tablets and phones have downloadable apps available, such as PreyProject, that can track the devices as well. Do your research to see what fits your needs best.
- Data Recovery. Data back-up is a must for academic users. Back-up can be accomplished either personally with external hardware and/or by use of commercially available data back-up systems. If a laptop is lost, stolen or simply crashes, data back-up may be the only thing that salvages valuable research data, notes and papers.
If a widespread effort by all of UCLA’s computer users can be made to make UCLA a computer theft “unfriendly” location, it can help everyone by making UCLA less attractive to computer thieves. Please practice good computer habits and take advantage of resources available to you to prevent computer theft.
The products listed above are third party vendors. They are not affiliated with UCLA. UCLA makes no representations or warranties regarding these products. UCLA does not assume and expressly disclaims any and all liability related to or arising from the use of these products.