Physical Device Security

The security of your data is only as good as the amount of physical access someone has to it. Most common security measures such as firewalls and passwords will be rendered useless if someone gains physical access to your device. With laptops getting smaller and lighter and with the increase in use of mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, and Android devices it is easier than ever to steal valuable personal and business related data. Below are some ways to help in safeguarding your devices from being stolen, and if they are stolen to make sure no one can access your data.

There are many different ways to secure your computer from physical locks to cameras that take pictures of someone that is trying to steal your computer. Some of these resources are free and some can be purchased on a subscription basis.

Computer Locks

There are many kinds of physical locks you can choose from. These locks used to only be necessary for laptops, but now with the small form factor of computers such as the iMac, you should consider these locks for any desktop that is not in a secure location. You can choose from key or combination locks for devices that are moved around often. For some examples of laptop locks see The important part of using a laptop lock is ensuring that you secure it to something  like a desk leg that cannot be easily lifted. You should also ensure that the lock you purchase is compatible with your device.

Mobile Devices

It is important to note that physical locks are also available for a variety of mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone and Android devices. However, since these devices might not be convenient to physically lock, having a passcode is your first line of defense in securing your mobile device. Some devices allow you to set the passcode to wipe the device after a certain amount of incorrect attempts to enter the pin.

Computer Alarms

Another way to protect your laptop from getting stolen would be to install an alarm. This alarm would work similar to a car alarm and would sound a loud noise if your device was in danger of being stolen. You can get these for both Mac's and PC's and they can be set up with either a physical device or software.

LAlarm (Windows only software) Free for personal use:

Laptop security alarms example:

Laptop Security Cams

Laptop security cameras work on motion sensors and will either upload pictures to a website or email the pictures to you when the motion sensor is activated. This solution should be used along with a physical lock.

Yawcam for Windows:

Gawker for Mac:

Additional Laptop protection strategies can be found in AskUs article 927.

Device Locators

There are services available for mobile devices that will use the GPS locator to allow you to track them. This service requires that you have location services turned on for your device. If your device is stolen you can log onto a website and track the location of where it is and any movement. Some of these services allow you to send messages or to remotely wipe all of the data on your device as long as it is turned on and has a connection to the GPS.

Find My iPhone: Free for Mac users and works in conjunction with iCloud. Can be used for iPhone, iPad, iTouch or your Mac.

Lojack: Subscription based commercial product for Windows.

Prey: Open Source for multi platforms.


As unappealing as it may be, physically engraving your name, University inventory number, or other very visible identifying information is a detterent to theft.  It makes it difficult to resell the stolen computer.

Physical Positioning of the Device

Ideally, the computer or other desirable electronic device should be positioned out of the line of sight of windows and doors.  If the device is in plain view of window or door, the thief can easily see it when doing a reconnaisance.  Additionally, do not leave the screen on at night as the glow of the screen in a dark room is a dead giveaway.

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Article ID: 1425
Created: Mon, 30 Jul 2012 11:13am
Modified: Thu, 29 Nov 2012 9:48am