Preventing Portability

Portability is a mixed blessing. We can now carry around in our pockets devices that provide as much computing power as mainframes did twenty years ago. Portability is in fact a necessity in devices such as tablets and mobile phones. And we do not want to permanently affix our personal computers to our desks, in case they need to be removed for repair or replacement. Thus, we need to find ways to enable portability without promoting theft.


One antitheft device is a pad connected to cable, similar to those used to secure bicycles. The pad is glued to the desktop with extremely strong adhesive. The cables loop around the equipment and are locked in place. Releasing the lock permits the equipment to be moved. An alternative is to couple the base of the equipment to a secure pad, in much the same way that televisions are locked in place in hotel rooms. Yet a third possibility is a large, lockable cabinet in which the personal computer and its peripherals are kept when they are not in use. Some people argue that cables, pads, and cabinets are unsightly and, worse, they make the equipment inconvenient to use. And they are incompatible with portable devices such as tablets and laptops.

Another alternative is to use movement-activated alarm devices when the equipment is not in use. Small alarms are available that can be locked to a laptop or case. When movement is detected, a loud, annoying whine or whistle warns that the equipment has been disturbed. Such an alarm is especially useful when laptops must be left in meeting or presentation rooms overnight or during a break. In Sidebar 10-8 we describe the magnitude of the problem of lost and stolen laptops. Used in concert with guards, the alarms can offer reasonable protection at reasonable cost.

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