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Saturday, 5 July 2008

Airports: blackhole for laptops

Three friends are attending the Paris Cinema International Film Festival (6th edition, 2008), the last of the three boarding her plane just about now (Saturday morning, PHI time). She is set to join our good friend Aureaus Solito, a panelist at the Festival and director of two of about 30 entries, Pisay and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, and Margie Templo (Arkeo Films), an invited workshop participant. More here.
To travelers like my three friends, planning, packing, departing and arriving aren't always pleasant experiences. They have so far either been lucky with not losing important items, or have constant presence of mind to pack or bring only the essential. However, in most cases, the essential are almost always of value, not just to them, but to others. Such as portables, aka the ubiquitous laptops.
A recent survey in the U.S. says that more than 10,000 laptops are lost OR STOLEN in airports EVERY WEEK. PC World already wrote about this survey on June 30, 2008:
...Airports, along with hotels and parked cars. are places where laptops can be easily stolen, said the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on its Web site. The confusion of going through security checkpoints can make it easy for travelers to lose track of their laptops, making it "fertile ground for theft," the FTC said.
The FTC recommends people treat laptops "like cash." Like a wad of money, a laptop in public view -- like the backseat of the car or at the airport -- could attract unwanted attention. The FTC also recommends using tracking devices like Absolute Software's LoJack, which can help track down a stolen laptop by reporting its location once it is connected to the Internet. Lenovo last week announced it would offer the LoJack option in its upcoming ThinkPad SL series laptops.
The survey was made by the Ponemon Institute and paid for by Dell to be used for its laptop data protection service for business travellers . (View the report here.)

Richard Stiennon, a security service industry expert, picked up the survey in his blog, and offers three suggestions on how to avoid losing the lappie — and other items of value:

1. Place your laptop in the first bin you put on the belt of the X-ray machine. You should put your laptop bag in front of it.
Put the bin with your shoes, belt, purse, wallet, etc. right behind your laptop. And your carry-on bag last. The first thing you should do on the other side is put your laptop in its bag before the other luggage crashes into it and dumps it on the floor. Your other stuff separates it from the person behind you and in front of you.
2. Mark your laptop! Put a sticker on it. I know people hate to do this. But you should identify your laptop in such a way that you can quickly identify it. There are lots of Dell computers our there. I have almost picked up the wrong laptop on many occasions. DO NOT TAPE YOUR BUSINESS CARD TO YOUR LAPTOP. Do not become a target by letting potential laptop thieves know just how valuable your laptop may be. My favorite marker for my Dell Latitude is the white Apple sticker I got with my iPod.
3. If you lose your laptop contact the TSA immediately. Call the airport. Take action. I bet in 99% of the cases you can get it back.
Unfortunately, recovery is low at 33%, according to the survey*. Besides, given the hassle of going through stringent security regulations at airports in general, keeping within budget and fare rates, plus time constraints, travelers are not afforded the luxury of lodging complaints, much less the space to contemplate retracing their movements.

Stiennon ends his blog asking where the recovered laptops end up. Interesting query, but before we even get there (as this is something for the authorities to think about), I hope all mobile users will keep in mind to put into practice these simple and practical steps.

REFERENCES Graphics: krvilla.08

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