Protecting Laptop Computers From Theft

The increased use and ownership of laptop computers has been accompanied by a rise in theft because they are easy to steal and open to opportunistic theft. Apart from the loss of the hardware there may be the loss of sensitive commercial information which is of a far higher monetary value than the laptop itself.

The practice of “hot desking” has increased the reliance on complex and valuable IT equipment by roving staff. Although there are electronic devices able to locate and track equipment and in some cases even immobilise the unit, it is rare for laptops to be returned to their owner. The protection of laptops requires good management practices. Where users have a responsibility for their laptops the incidence of theft and loss can be reduced significantly.

Observing a few simple procedures can reduce the amount of equipment being stolen, deter opportunistic thieves and reduce the likelihood of unauthorised equipment removal by staff, contractors or professional thieves.

Actions to Prevent Opportunistic Laptop Theft and Theft by Collusion

  • Have a management inventory system which requires individuals to sign for a specific laptop, whether for use inside or outside the office.
  • Make sure that equipment is not swapped or lent to other staff without proper authority.
  • Ensure that arrangements are made to retrieve a laptop when an individual leaves the firm.
  • Ensure that staff are aware of the replacement value of equipment and impress on them the potential threat of theft.
  • Make staff aware that theft, whether internal or external, will be reported to the police.
  • Consider whether loss by gross negligence should result in disciplinary action, perhaps the imposition of a fine.
  • Clearly label or postcode mark equipment to link it to its owner.
  • Lock equipment in secure cupboards, even during office hours when it is left unattended.
  • Secure meeting rooms when equipment is left unattended.
  • Use access control systems to limit access from public areas such as receptions, factories or warehouses to the main office facilities, and encourage staff to challenge unfamiliar visitors.
  • Reduce the likelihood of street robberies by disguising carrying cases used to transport laptop computers.
  • When travelling by car, lock equipment which is not being used in the boot using one of the security devices available.

Actions to Prevent Professional Laptop Theft

Professional theft is the most difficult to prevent. Professional criminals will survey a firm, assess its operational security measures and identify any weak points.

To prevent theft, firms should consider the need for additional measures such as intruder detection and additional external lighting. Ground floor grilles and shutters and night security staff may be necessary. If a loss occurs, consult with crime prevention officers and insurance company surveyors before replacing equipment. Once a computer theft has occurred the chances of the thieves coming back are high, security arrangements should be reviewed before any equipment is replaced.

The Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) issues approval for security measures including:

  • LPS 1175 Burglary Resistant Door, Window and Grilles Strongpoint.
  • LPS 1214 Security Devices for Personal Computers.

Further information is available from:

The Loss Prevention Certification Board
BRE Certification Ltd.
WD25 9XX

This information based on Crown Copyright 2003

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