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Protect Laptops, Mobile Devices & Flash Drives - Knowledgebase / Security / Physical Security - OIT Service Center

Protect Laptops, Mobile Devices & Flash Drives

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Protecting your laptop, small mobile devices, and your even smaller thumbdrives / smart cards / memory sticks from theft is much easier than trying to recover any of them later. A few simple steps can save you lost files, time, maybe even your identity or job.


  • Keep it close. It's always best to keep your laptop within reach and your small devices in a safe place right on your person whenever possible.
  • Lock it down. This includes your login as well as the physical machine.
    • Phones and tablets: We've shared some of our favorite phone security tips for both Android and iOS:
    • Computers: To lockdown your login, make sure that when you walk away from your laptop, you lock the screen.
      • For Windows machines, press the Windows key (icon of Windows logo) plus the "L" key.
      • For Apple laptops, configure your Security & Privacy settings so that a login password is required immediately after sleep or a screen saver begins, then when you walk away from your laptop, click on the Sleep option in the Apple menu.
      • It's also a good idea to set the display/power option to put the computer to sleep when it has been idle for a certain length of time, which should be dependent upon what is stored or can be accessed from your machine. Those with sensitive information should have a very short idle period such as one minute, for example.
    • For physical security, use a cable lock, preferably one with an alarm. For serious lock-downs, visit Tryten Technologies, offering a variety of strategies to secure your laptops as well as desktops, tablets and external drives (including laptop lockers).
  • Lock your room when you leave to protect your valuables, even if it's for a short time.
  • Secure your flash drive. Encrypt its contents. You can purchase Data Traveler Vaults from Kingston, as an example.
  • Be safe when traveling. Is your laptop ready for wireless in the wild? Review Prepare Your Laptop for Traveling before you go.


  • Make a record of key information. Document your laptop's serial number, MAC addresses (local area connection as well wireless) and other vitals. In the event of a theft, these will be helpful for public safety/police reports. Not sure how to capture your MAC addresses? You can find instructions here.
  • Print out and store the document in a safe place. You may also want a paper record of key contact names and numbers should you lose a cell phone.


  • Locate/Lock it: Install a tracking program like Absolute's Laptop Protection service , which provides one year of basic coverage for $19.99 (three for $39.99). And don't forget about your smartphone. Track down a lost or stolen device by installing a security app. Check your device's app store for specifics.
  • Mark it: Have the Department of Public Safety engrave and register it. Details on this free service on DPS's Operation Identification web page.
  • If missing, report it: If your laptop is stolen, contact DPS immediately.

Bottom Line

  • Common Sense: Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, if you want to keep your laptop, mobile device or memory cards.
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