Steps you need to do right now to reduce collateral damage.

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2

Losing your gear is hard enough, but losing your ability to function in life and on the job makes theft a killer.

What’s on your laptop, iPad, iPhone, media, etc. that’s crucial anyway?

1. Financial info.  A lot of us use online banking just because we travel so much.  We use our credit cards when we order stuff online.   If you’ve purchased anything on the net, or done any online banking, chance are your financial info is buried somewhere on your hard drive.

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 Whats in your wallet?

2. Personal info:  Scans of ID’s, Passports, Driver’s Licenses, etc., for work visas, contracts, taxes.

4. Email info.  Your email folders may contain any or all of the above (and below).

3. Professional related software: For recording, RF and/or acoustic analysis and more.

4. Show files for digital consoles.

5. Music and pics.

6. Business related documents ie; contract riders, stage plots, input lists, Blogs, etc.

Here’s where I learned a very important lesson the hard way. 

Again. 

Having had another computer “crap the bed” years ago without having backup, I’d learned to become very diligent about backing up crucial data in multiple locations. 

Or so I’d thought…

I’d long since gotten into the habit of backing up everything regularly.

Console show files were backed up to my media every day (in whatever form).  Media was backed up to the laptop once or twice a week.  And my laptop was backed up to an external drive every two weeks or so…like clockwork!

I was using Carbon Copy Cloner (it’s free) for all of my computers. 

So, the laptop’s back up covers just about everything else that’s important, too. 

That’s three separate places (besides my console), right? 

That’s where I messed up.  I carry my back up drives in case of laptop failure, and not particularly about theft (although it was in the back of my mind).  And, the place I carried them was my computer bag. 

All of my media (USB thumb drives, Flash cards, PCMCIA card) was in my computer bag, too.

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That’s all of my digital eggs in one big, dangerously vulnerable basket.

Yes, I lost all of that in the blink of an eye.  My life. 

(I did manage to recover various show files and other documents via email, later though.  I’ll touch on this again a little later.)

How can you prevent this loss of all that is sacred from happening to you?

1. Have more than one back up in more than one place: one back up for the road and one to leave at home.   Back up the home source before you leave so it is up to date.  Back it up again when you get back home.

2. Keep your traveling back up in a separate location: your suitcase, your pelican, a road case on the truck.  This will greatly reduce the risk of losing everything at once.

3. Back up all crucial stuff somewhere online, so you can download it if needed.  Some of these sites and services include: The Cloud, Carbonite, iDrive, Mozy, Jungle Disk, SpiderOak, Time Machine, CrashPlan, Nomadesk, KineticD,  and Norton.  These service are actually quite affordable and probably a tax deduction if used exclusively for your business.

4. Periodically email yourself important show files and documents.  This is a great way to be able to easily retrieve one in a hurry for back up.  You’ll have access to your most critical files even if you’re reduced to borrowing a computer.  Simply log in to your email account and down load the file saving it to whatever detachable media storage device you’re use to using. (Thanks to Patrick Johnston for that tip!)

5. Password and encrypt the crap out of everything!  I know this is a bitch and quite frankly I’ve got so many freakin’ user names and passwords that it drives me nuts on a daily basis.    

Create a secret, covertly named folder, like “Aunt Sarah’s Communion” and put your files in there.  Use your own personal private code words for naming specific items such as “Area 51” so only you know what it means. 

Be sensible here.

Why? 

So no one can easily gain access to your stolen device’s private contents.

Most common thieves simply aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get in through your passwords and encryptions.  Their booty (your former tools of the trade) is most likely immediately headed out-of-state for resale, to a chop shop for parts, or to the local pawnshop. 

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This is why it’s so important to keep records of the serial numbers of your stuff in a separate location…or several.

Sales receipts and/or original packaging usually are a good way to go back and find them if they’re not specifically documented. 

Investigating Detectives will input the numbers into the national database and any Pawn Shop that gets your stolen merchandise will (should) alert Police. 

In the event your stuff isn’t password protected (or your wallet’s gone), cancel all of your debit/credit cards and change your bank accounts immediately and activate a ninety-day fraud alert through Equifax, Experian or any of the credit reporting agencies. 

You have just become a very easy target for identity theft. 

Any tech-savvy hacker will be able to find all that stuff if they want to.  Therein lies the risk of catastrophic exposure! 

My neighbor was robbed last year.  Her stolen laptop was bought in California online from a seller in Florida.  The theft occurred in Tennessee! 

Fortunately, the buyer contacted my neighbor because she had work info on the computer and he asked her if this info was important or could be erased.  She lucked out and the laptop was returned. 

Most likely, though, stolen computers will have a fresh install of the operating system software (probably pirated) initiated before resale.   If it was computer that was stolen, your digital life would have been wiped clean.

6. Enable the GPS location finder security feature on every device that has the option.

I’ve seen folks locate andretrieve their stuff this way. 

However, even though we lost 3 iPads and 2 laptops that all had the GPS locaters activated, not one piece was recovered.  Thieves are becoming hip to this feature and know not to turn them on or disable if the are.

7. Compile a general inventory of your valuable traveling gear.  Document all of it down to cables.  Include both model and serial numbers wherever possible.  This will be a lifesaver!

These are the steps to personally assure you can still perform your job with minimal hassle.  Next time we’ll take a look at insuring your gear, so you’ll have a minimal capital outlay to replace what was rightly yours.