Stop thief!

Sharp eyes will soon spot a notebook PC unless you swap the
carrying case for something less practical. So keep the case, but alarm it,
says Davey Winder


This month it’s not so much what’s in the bag as the bag
itself that I’m concerned with. And for a very good reason – I recently fell
victim to a notebook PC thief as I was waiting for my early morning flight to
Tokyo. I was on my way to cover a high-tech consumer electronic show for a
magazine and was due to report back before leaving, so the publication in
question could be first on the shelves with all the new and lovely gadgets


My flight was delayed so, as I was tired after my early
start, I placed my notebook case beside me on the bench and had forty winks,
well more like thirty, because I suddenly awoke with a feeling that all was not
well. And it wasn’t – my notebook and case had vanished, stolen by an
opportunist thief whose greed is easily fed by idiots like me, and
unfortunately like many of your executive staff.


A notebook PC is no luxury, it’s a business lifeline when
away from the office. Most people ensure they have a suitable case to carry the
thing around in, with pockets for all the accessories, and maybe big enough for
a portable printer, webcam, spare battery pack and AC adaptor as well. The
trouble is that all these cases scream "Look at me, I’ve got an expensive
and desirable piece of computer equipment inside" to every hopeful thief
in the area.


The industry "experts" tell us we should discard
these cases and carry our notebooks around in our briefcases. This is fine if
your briefcase is enormous, which most people’s are not, or if your notebook is
of the super-small sub-notebook variety, in which case where do you put the
external floppy, CD-ROM drive and so on? One answer is to use a sports bag or a
backpack, but neither do much to enhance the image of your executive staff as
they arrive at an important meeting with a client.


Instead, I’d suggest you do what I did and splash a little
cash on a Targus DefCon notebook computer security system. It sounds
complicated, but it’s actually nothing more than an alarm and lock for your
notebook. Essentially, this small device fits to either the "kensington
lock" slot found on most notebook PCs these days, or the carry case
itself. You get a length of cut-resistant steel cable attached to a unit
housing a 360-degree motion sensor, microprocessor and 110-decibel alarm
(that’s loud – as loud as a chainsaw according to my calculations). The cable
attaches to your notebook or case and is secured by a combination lock with
more than 1,000 different variations. And that’s it. Once armed, the alarm goes
off if the PC is moved or the cable cut and the only way to stop the racket is
to use the combination.


There are two models, the DefCon 1 and the DefCon 3. DefCon
1, which comes with over a metre of cut-resistant steel cable, is a
self-contained unit measuring 6.4 x 14 x 4cm and weighing just 175g with
battery, while DefCon 3 measures 8.7 x 5.35 x 1.6cm and has just 15cm of cable.
The reason DefCon 3 is so much smaller is that it comes with a remote control
key fob, a bit like a car alarm, which has a working distance of 12 metres. You
can arm and disarm with the key fob, and the same alarm goes off if anyone
tries to steal your PC as you wander around. Personally, I prefer the security
of the steel cable lashing my PC to something solid, like a bolted-down airport
bench leg, rather than the convenience of the remote unit.


But back to my tale of woe. I reported the theft to the
airport police, which delayed me even further, and then caught my flight to
Tokyo. Upon arrival, instead of having some time to relax before starting work,
I had to go and buy myself a new notebook PC so I could actually do some work.
I also discovered, and bought, a DefCon 1 at the same time. Now I make sure I
lash the notebook down securely wherever I am – even the office.


Further information


DefCon security system


Pros: visual and audio deterrent, plus the physical cable
approach, makes for a very secure notebook wherever you are.


Cons: relies on user to remember to fit at each location;
false alarms can be embarrassing.


DefCon 1 costs $49.99, DefCon 3 $39.99. More details from

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