Tag Archives: Theft

Prevent Car Theft By Storing Your Keys In the Microwave

MicrowaveThere’s plenty of good advice out there that can help you prevent car-related theft. Park in secure, well-lit areas, Make sure you always keep your windows rolled up and doors locked when you’re away from the vehicle. But police have some new advice when it comes to keeping your vehicle secure. And it’s not like any we’ve seen before. Authorities are now advising owners of keyless fob-style car door openers to store their keychains inside appliances like microwaves and refrigerators.

Apparently, thieves are ditching the crowbar approach to breaking into cars and instead using high-tech methods to gain entry into vehicles:

A recent alert from the department warned of a growing trend of car thieves in California using an electronic device called a power amplifier, which allows them to easily unlock vehicles and quickly pillage them for valuables. According to the alert, the amplifier takes advantage of the radio communication between the cars and the key fobs used by owners to lock and unlock vehicles.

If the methodology behind the crime seems wild, the best way to prevent it may seem even stranger:

According to the department’s alert, one of the best ways to guard yourself against these would-be hackers is to keep vehicle keys in a place that blocks radio frequency signals, hence the advice to store keys in a microwave. The statement also suggests storing keys in the fridge, a metal box, or a specially made Faraday Cage—which can cost anywhere from $25 to more than $300 online—to thwart the high-tech car burglars.

So there you go. Next time you come home from running errands, be sure to place your keychain inside the microwave. Just make sure you take the keys out before you heat up last night’s leftovers.

Vivick Anti-Theft Backpack Debuts at CES

Vivick LogoThe theft of mobile electronic devices has become increasingly attractive as the value of gadgets rises and the economy falls. A particularly easy way to steal is to simply open likely-looking backpacks and rucksacks while they’re being worn and remove the gadgetry without the owner noticing. Sometimes the pack can be unzipped quietly, other times it’s cut open with a knife or scissors. A skilled thief can do this while someone is walking along but more commonly it happens on trains and buses.

To defend against this thievery, Canadian firm Vivick will debut their new line of anti-theft backpacks at CES in January, comprising three bags constructed from an anti-slash military-grade gauge nylon with a combination lock built into the zipper tab. Each model is designed to look good while being sturdy and durable, and the carry straps are also strengthened.

Rifling through my satchel this morning, I found a laptop, a tablet, an MP3 player and a somewhat old smartphone (Palm Treo Pro). Even with this last item, the total value of the technology exceeds £1000 (or $1500), so this isn’t a purely theoretical risk.

Vivick is known for its professional electronic designs, having worked for Apple, Sony, Samsung and Dell to create accessories for their own product lines. Vivick has also worked with Aston Martin and Ferrari on interior automotive accessories. Based on these credentials, I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with at CES.

Stolen Laptop, Now What?

HandcuffsOne of my biggest fears when I travel, and anytime really, is what happens if my laptop is stolen?  I mean, my whole life is on there, right?  Yes, I have backed up my files and programs.  But still.  It’s $800 I wouldn’t like to replace, you know?

But if it’s stolen, is there any chance at all of me getting it back?  Joshua Kaufman, of Oakland, California, managed to retrieve his laptop using some creative social networking as well as some software.  Someone broke into his apartment and stole his Macbook, along with a bottle of gin and his eBook reader.  I’m sure the crook drank the gin, and sold the eBook, but that Macbook was way too pretty to pawn.  So he used it, which activated anti-theft software Kaufman had just installed.  He created a website, twittered and facebooked about the site and the stolen laptop, and had enough pictures and evidence to go to the police.  Unfortunately, the police ignored him at first, but more than two months after the theft, Kaufman has his Macbook back.

This has led me to think about getting software for my new laptop, which cost me half a leg along with a whole arm.  I can’t afford to replace it, nor should I have to.  I should be able to easily track my laptop, and get it back in my hands in short order.  But of course I’m cheap.  Really cheap.  That means I don’t want to buy anything.  There is a LoJack system for laptops, but it costs by subscriptions that start at about $40 a year.  I know, that’s not a whole lot of money, but I’m still too cheap.  There are others with varying price points, all ranging from $30 to several hundred dollars a year.  Then there’s Prey, a free, open source program that provides remote start of device-tracking.  Perfect. Not only can you track your device once it’s stolen, but you can lock out the computer from use and take a picture of the person using your laptop.  The software will work on other devices as well, not just laptops.

I’ve downloaded and installed it on my laptop.  I’m hoping I never have to use it.

What are you using to protect your devices in case of theft?

Social Websites Take Control of Your Personal Identity

I have surrendered control of my personal identity to the internet. I was listening to an audio book the other day when the author said, “The internet never forgets.”  Once identityyour information is on the web it is there for good.  Think of the information social websites like MySpace and Facebook has.  You upload your pictures, reveal your emotions in status updates, write notes, comment on other people, etc.  Every friend of yours sees and reads all that information.  They download your photos and re-write your thoughts.  If you blog then portions, if not all, of your site will be held in cache somewhere in the world forever.  The internet never forgets.

The web is like a data miner pulling bits of information from you and then reassembling them through Google.  It makes me wonder how much longer security questions for websites will even work.  I think everyone probably knows my mother’s maiden name by now.  What I am getting at is this: I have surrendered control of my personal identity to the internet.  Or perhaps, the social websites slyly took it away from me.  I thought the social web was helping me connect with other people, but it really was stripping me of control.

As diligent as I am about revealing information about myself on the web, I am afraid that I have lost control of my identity.  Will the day come when we need the equivalent of a DMCA takedown for personal information?  Who really owns the right of displaying that personal information?  The greatest form of identity theft may not be the loss of my bank information but the loss of my ability to control my basic identity.