Be aware of tech theft threat at school and in dormitories

Today?s students gear up for back-to-school season by stocking up on expensive technology, from MP3 players to laptops. However, most students are unaware that dorm rooms and schools are some of the most dangerous places to store precious electronic equipment.

Dormitories and schools are among the top five places from which laptops are most likely to be stolen, reports Absolute Software, a firm specializing in computer theft recovery, data protection and asset tracking.

?Students have a false sense of security on campus,? said John Livingston, chief executive officer of Absolute Software. ?Many students are bringing thousands of dollars of electronic equipment into their dorm rooms with little to no security precautions. It?s just open season for criminals.?

It?s not just the hardware costs that students need to be concerned about. Since these devices are often used for school work and personal computing as well as entertainment, losing a laptop can negatively impact academic performance or put a student at risk for identity theft. Students need to know how to protect themselves.

Computers now play multiple roles in a student?s life?notebook, library, photo album, stereo, television and telephone. Computers also serve as a primary means of communication for students with faculty, family and friends through e-mail, instant messaging and social networking sites. Protecting a computer is part common sense, part hardware and part software. Absolute Software offers these tips to students:

n Use visual deterrents. A cable lock or other locking mechanism can act as a deterrent to would-be criminals. Although they can be ripped off the plastic exterior of a laptop with a strong tug, they do force some criminals to think twice before taking the risk.

n Avoid leaving unsecured laptops unattended. Lock them in cabinets, safes or other secure facilities when not in use. If they must be left in a vehicle, they should be covered up or locked in the trunk.

n Keep laptops inconspicuous. Laptops should always be carried in inconspicuous carrying cases, such as backpacks or tote bags, instead of tell-tale laptop bags.

n Use complex passwords and change them regularly. Don?t use simple passwords that can be guessed easily. Always use a combination of numbers and letters and never leave your password in obvious places on or near the computer.

n Leverage anti-virus software, encryption solutions, anti-spyware and firewalls. Prevent unauthorized access and spyware from invading your computer and protect valuable information with data encryption software. Make sure your systems are properly installed and kept up-to-date.

n Back up valuable data on a scheduled basis. Data backup needs to happen as frequently as possible to minimize the risk in the event of theft or loss. The information or ?knowledge? that is stored on the computer is often more valuable than the computer itself.

n Understand the dangers of pirated software and file sharing. Both piracy and over-deployment of purchased licenses can lead to significant lawsuits or other financial penalties. Not only is it illegal, but pirated software can increase susceptibility to viruses, Trojans and other attacks.

n Check your insurance policy. In the event of a loss, some homeowner?s insurance policies will cover computers that are taken outside the home. If a student lives in a dormitory, renters insurance may be in order.

n Use asset tracking and recovery software. Install an asset tracking and recovery tool such as Computrace LoJack for Laptops ( to track and recover a computer that is lost or stolen. Computrace LoJack for Laptops? Student Edition includes remote data deletion capabilities, which significantly reduce the risk of identity theft if your laptop is stolen.

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