What can I do if my computer or laptop is lost or stolen?
The computer loss might bring the owner a stressful situation because it brings a loss in financial and security to the information. But there are a few steps that one should follow to protect oneself before and after the computer is lost.
The first and foremost thing one should do is to know about the place where the computer is lost or stolen, then according to that give a complaint to the respective authorities to get your computer back and at the same time try to protect your information so that it does not fall in the hands of malicious intended persons.
Be prepared for possible theft of the laptop or computer
Nobody thinks their laptop will be lost or stolen, but changes will be there that can happen to anyone. So as anyone will not be known when this situation might occur, all we have to do is to protect our sensitive data beforehand. Therefore, one should make sure to:
1) Encrypt the data
The encryption of data should be done so that even if someone gets access to the computer, they will not be able to access the sensitive information.
2) Backup the data
One should regularly back up the data so that if it is also stolen, files won't be lost forever.
Backups are most important because files can be lost in many ways due to viruses and hard disk damage etc.
3) Permit the device’s tracking feature
The foremost thing to do is to enable the device's tracking feature so that when it is stolen or lost, you can use the location to locate and find it.
In the windows operating system, there is an inbuilt feature called "Find My Device", and in the mac operating system (macOS), it is called "Find My".
To use Find My Device in windows, initially log in to a Microsoft account and then enable location services. To enable this feature, click on the start menu of the desktop and then click settings. In settings, select Update and Security, then Find My Device. In that window, click on the change button then click on "Save my device's location periodically".
Start > settings > update and security > Find My Device > change > on.
What to do when the laptop is stolen
One should do the following steps when the laptop is stolen
- Locate and then lock the device.
- Inform to authorities.
- Secure the personal information.
1. Locate and then lock the laptop
We can locate and lock the laptop if the "Find My Device" is enabled on the device.
After the laptop is stolen, we can locate it by visiting the device pages for one's Microsoft account, then clicking on the "Find My Device" feature and selecting the laptop, and finally clicking "Find".
If everything is ok up to here, then a map is displayed by Microsoft showing the device's location. Then make a capture of the map because it will be helpful when you file a report.
To protect the data, click on the laptop in the map and then select Lock > Next. The process is done to prevent usage of your laptop till you unlock it again; this rule is applied to you also. So, when you get your laptop back, sign in to your Microsoft account and unlock it.
2. Inform authorities
After tracking the laptop, inform the authorities about the incident.
- Report to police
File a report at the nearest police station by physically going to the station, or you can do it online on their website.
After the approval of your report by the police, ask them to give you a copy. Note the case number assigned to your report by the officer and also get the phone number of the police station. Then also inform an insurance company and the laptop manufacturer.
- Inform your bank
Sometimes you shop online using credit and debit card information, and they get saved on your laptop. In such cases, get to your bank and block your cards.
Even when you encrypt the hardware, it is better to inform your bank to be safe, and then the bank only monitors your accounts for any malicious activities. In that period, periodically check the statements issued by your bank to get information about the activities going on.
- Claim with your insurance company
For a stolen laptop, you can file an insurance claim when you have renters or homeowners’ insurance. Then you can give a copy of your police report to your insurance company.
Homeowner's and renters’ insurance includes personal property theft, such as a laptop. This scheme includes only personal belongings, not work-related properties.
3. Secure the personal information
You can successfully protect sensitive information even when the laptop is stolen by
- Erase your data
When the device you lost is connected to the internet, you can erase the data remotely.
In the macOS, when "Find My" is enabled, the user can easily delete the data by marking the device as lost in the same described for "Find My Device" above. The above process will lock the device at the same time. It will disable Apple Pay.
If luck permits and if you recover your laptop, then also you should wipe the data because hackers might install some malware by which they control the device.
- Changing your passwords
You should log in to your accounts and change passwords. This procedure is recommended for every online account, especially for bank, email, and social media accounts.
When you change your passwords, do not update the auto-fill function because the passwords are not updated and synced in your missing laptop.
- Clearance of browsing data
If your chrome browser is being used by you, then you can delete the browser data by opening the chrome menu and choosing settings. In the settings, go to Autofill > Passwords > Auto Sign-in off.
- Sign out of your account and devices
Sign out of your google account and Chrome remotely to deny permission to your accounts and device.