Things You Should Do If Your Computer or Laptop is Stolen
First thing you need to do is report your lost or stolen computer to the nearest police station. What other measures should you take to ensure that the data stored in the computer cannot be used in an illegal way?
A lost laptop is not just inconvenient and costly. It is also a considerable threat to your digital security too. Here we share our advice on what to do in the event of a lost or stolen laptop, as well as providing tips on how to minimise the security risks to protect you should this unfortunate occurrence happen.
Step 1: Change your account passwords
This is the first step most digital security experts recommend if you are parted with your laptop. If someone else can log into your device, they’ll likely have access to most or all of your online accounts, especially if you use autofill to enter your usernames and passwords.
Prioritise changing your email password, as your email account can be used to reset login details. Take particular care with single sign-on logins that provide access to a host of different platforms, such as Google, Microsoft or Apple. Once you’ve done that, if you don’t already have it, enable multi-factor authentication on your email account.
Next, work your way through all your other accounts. Bank logins, social media and any other platforms that you use personally or for work, including the likes of website content management systems and cloud storage such as Dropbox, should all be updated with new, strong passwords.
Step 2: Clear your browsing history and delete autofill
If you have autofill enabled in your web browsers, all a thief will need to do to login to your accounts is open that browser. So be sure to switch off automatic sign-in, and delete all saved passwords.
To do this in Chrome, go into settings/passwords and toggle Auto Sign-in to off. You can also clear your browsing data to remove saved logins from any devices that sync with your Google account, as well as sign out of Chrome remotely. Firefox and Safari offer similar processes within their preferences and settings menus.
Finally, and very importantly, make sure you remove all saved payment information from any website you use for shopping.
Step 3: De-authorise your device
It is often possible to remotely revoke access to any online services you use on your laptop. Apple for example will let you remove devices that are logged in under your Apple ID. You can also remove computers from Google’s trusted device list, deregister devices from your Amazon account and log out remotely from Facebook. Make a list of online services you access and work through them one by one.
It is also a good idea to switch off auto-sync between linked devices so that your current information is not updated on your missing laptop.
Step 4: Track your laptop
If your laptop is internet enabled, you can use its built-in ‘find my device’ system to locate and control it.
If you have an Apple laptop and ‘Find My’ is enabled, you will be able to view connected devices on a map. It is also possible to take various actions to secure these devices, such as making them as lost so that they lock and disable Apple Pay, and remote erasing the contents.
For Windows operating systems, there are similar options to locate and lock devices from a distance. Some antivirus programs also offer device tracking features.
Step 5: Protect personal information
The first step you should immediately take after losing your computer is to protect personal information by changing all passwords saved in the lost or stolen computer. Failure to do so may see you fall victim to a number of thefts including identity theft, bank frauds etc. If you work at a company that has an IT department, also notify them of the same so that they can keep a look out for any recurrent unauthorized failures in the username you were using.
Step 6: Track the Computer
The second thing you should do is confirm if your computer has an tracking system because most modern computers come with a tracking system. This will make it easier for you to track the location your computer. There are some options that typically come with this in-built computer tracking system; Lock, Sound and Erase.
The moment you have managed to track your device, you can choose either of the three options and the computer will automatically perform the commanded function. In the event that the computer is still in the same room, you can choose the ‘Sound’ option then you will be able to hear the sound coming from your computer to locate it.
Step 7: Notify important people
You should also notify your clients and banks or someone else that your computer is lost or was stolen. All banks have measures put in place in such incidents aiming at keeping you and your account safe from fraudsters. You clients also need to be altered so that they would notify you in-case they receive any suspicious communication from your e-mail address.
Step 8: Do occasional follow-up investigations
It is important that you occasionally monitor your accounts to check if you will notice any suspicious activities. This means checking your bank account(s), e-mail accounts and social media accounts for unusual activities. Also attention to some second hand shop to see if someone will try selling your computer there.
Losing a computer or having it stolen is never an easy ordeal. Computers have become an important part of our everyday life so losing one is like losing a piece of your life. That is why you need to take the above listed measures as soon as you’ve noticed you cannot fine your computer. The sooner you react and take the measures, the lesser the damages.