Our Thinking

Gone in 60 Seconds – Lessons Learned and Pointers from my Smash-and-Grab

Posted by Steve Levinson on Nov 2, 2015 9:58:48 AM

It’s probably because I insulted the city of Oakland by saying in a recent Facebook post that the Oakland Coliseum was post-apocalyptic, that karma came knocking at the door, or to be more exact, came smashing through the rental car window and stealing my backpack (which had my laptop) during the time it took to purchase my coffee at Starbucks. Since I’m pretty paranoid about these things – after all, it’s something I do for a living – I figured I’d parley this experience into something that may help you either avoid the situation – or at least minimize the impact.

Sometimes you should drink coffee before you go out to buy coffee

Yes, I admit it was stupid of me to leave my backpack in clear view on the front seat of the car. Sure, I locked the door, and sure, I figured I’d only be gone for a few minutes, and it was a normal hustle and bustle morning Starbucks parking lot crowd. Stupid of me also to not really remember where I was since, at the time, it looked like Anyplace, USA, when really it was in a less-desirable-than-where-you-really-want-to-be part of town. I woulda coulda shoulda just taken my backpack with me as I usually do or, at a minimum, had it locked in the trunk out of clear view (doing so when I got in the car). If only I had my coffee before this happened, but then again, I guess that’s why I was at Starbucks… Lesson learned – it only takes seconds for someone to perform a smash-and-grab – so don’t make it easy for the crooks to go window shopping.

The takeaways

The more technical aspects of the takeaways – first, I had full hard drive encryption, so the documents on my hard drive were reasonably protected against anyone who may have tried to dig deeper. In this case, I doubt that the crooks were interested in my data and instead were just looking to make a quick buck. Nonetheless, it gave me great peace of mind to know that the data itself was safe. Reminder – if you have any data on your laptop that you consider confidential (and this includes data about your customers and partners!), make sure it is adequately protected/encrypted.

The data is worth a heck of a lot more than the laptop

The laptop was a 3-year-old Dell. Probably not worth a whole ton, and probably worth even less at the pawn shop where these miscreants most likely tried to sell it. Undoubtedly, the data ON the laptop was worth a good bit more – at least to me! This is where backups come in. Nobody ever thinks too much about backups until after they’ve lost their hardware to theft or failure. It really is one of those “ounce of prevention” kind of things. There are a myriad of solutions to help you back up your data – anything from external USB drives, to personal drive space on a company server or cloud storage server (e.g., Dropbox, GoogleDrive, etc.). While I won’t spend time elaborating on what backup solution is best for you (and if data is work-related, make sure you adhere to your company’s use policies), you should spend the time to make this happen and to determine how often to do it and to set reminders so you don’t forget.

Picking up the pieces

While much of my data was backed up, it had been a couple of months since my last backup. Luckily, a huge percentage of files that I cared about were ones that I had created to share with my team, clients, and partners, so I was able to retrieve many of them through my Sent Messages folder.

Riding off into the sunset

So remember, computers break or get stolen all the time – but don’t let it happen to your data too. First, make sure you’ve protected your data so that if your device IS lost or stolen, they can’t access your data. Second, remember to be vigilant with not only physically protecting your laptop (easy to say…), but also remembering to protect your even-more-important data by backing it up regularly.


Topics: Security

Our Thinking - The Online Blog is a source for insights, resources, best practices, and other useful content from our multi-disciplinary team of Onliners.

Subscribe to Blog Updates

Recent Posts