Protection From Drive-By Looting

USB anchorThere can be few greater delights in life for the mobile operator than taking their laptop out for a coffee. It's like: "Hey, get me. I'm editing Oz Gizmodo from a Hudsons! Cool!"

But I'm sure I'm not alone when I say there's a moment of grave fear lurking amid the sang-froid. It's in that moment after you set your lappie up on the table and then walk to the counter to place your order. Will my essential best friend still be there when I get back?

It's not an unlikely scenario. You need only leave your laptop unattended for a few moments and some enterprising street urchin will turn it into a quick buck. Of course, experience is the best teacher to avoid this situation. Just get a table as far from the door as possible. Way at the back of the cafe, or tucked away in a booth. This makes it awfully hard to affect a drive-by looting if the perp has to dodge a dozen tables to make a break for it.

If you must sit near the door or otherwise have your precious in plain view, the LAlarm seems like a good idea. This is a software solution, free for private use, that can detect if your laptop's power cable has been disconnected, as it might be if someone had lifted it in a hurry, and sounds a loud alarm using your laptop's speakers. In the event the alarm doesn't save your laptop from a new life as a hex slave—and we think it might be a good idea to let this happen if the thief jacking your 'puter looks like a professional wrestler—you can set the software to wipe your hard drive using military-grade zeroing. The security paranoids out there might find this especially appealing.

"Ah yes," you say, "but what if you're running on battery juice?" There's an option to set the alarm off using a USB stick, which necessitates anchoring the USB drive to a table leg, as pictured above. If the stick is yanked out, the alarm goes off.

Alarming truth Believe it or not, in large companies where you'd expect even the workplace colleagues you don't really know to be trustworthy, there exists the ever-present possibility of having your laptop nicked. Not long ago I worked at such a place, an international media company (that should probably remain nameless) that issued the occasional reminder to secure your desktop valuables. It happens.

So a free software solution that might just save you from one of life's great stress-fests (laptop theft is up there with getting married and losing your credit card) seems like a pretty good idea. And that's why I'm linking you in.

Two things. It's Windows only, which leaves me and my MacBook at the back of the cafe. And you'll have to pay $US50 for commercial use.

And a caveat. Giz is not responsible for workplace pranksters who think it might be funny to nick your LAlarm-protected laptop and laugh while your life force drains away as you lose all that important work you did yesterday on that PowerPoint presentation. User beware. Oh, and not having trialled it we can't be absolutely certain this is not an elaborate spyware trojan. Double user beware.

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