Just having your laptop locked up in a laptop bag is not enough to deter thieves. You need to have certain measures in place to prevent the laptop from getting stolen, and also to ensure that the sensitive data stored on it does not go into the wrong hands.

You can secure your laptop both physically as well as digitally (through software). Here we’ll talk about mainly the software-based security.

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Physical security
Physical security devices deter theft of your expensive laptop hardware. A simple solution is a cable with a wrap-around loop at one end for tethering, and a lock at the other end that goes directly inside the laptop’s security slot. When the lock is in place, it is nearly impossible to remove the laptop without causing signifiant physical damage to it. So when using the laptop in a public place, you can secure the laptop by attaching it with a security cable to something immovable or to a heavy piece of furniture that can’t be moved easily. A typical security lock with a cable is shown in Fig. 1.

Software-based laptop security
Like most security measures, cables for the laptop’s physical ecurity are not infallible. Another effective method is to use an anti-theft protection software. Plenty of feature-packed software tools are widely available for laptop security, but their high cost prevents laptop users from using them. Fortunately, there are a number of free software too which come handy for the purpose. One such software is LAlarm, which sounds an alarm when your laptop is in the danger of getting stolen or losing data. It can recover as well as destroy the data on the laptop if the laptop is stolen.

Fig. 1: Laptop fastened to a table with a security lock
Fig. 1: Laptop fastened to a table with a security lock

LAlarm verison 5.7 (refer Fig. 2) is available for Windows operating system (OS)-based portable computers. The software is free for personal use and can be downloaded from www.lalarm.com/en/Download.htm site. If you encounter any problem in using this software, visit the LAlarm homepage at www.lalarm.com website or contact LAlarm Systems Support by sending an e-mail to [email protected]

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LAlarm is a comprehensive laptop security application that contains a series of tools to help laptop users. It consists of seven alarms and several other security features designed to secure a laptop. The anti-theft alert can be enabled through the laptop’s power adaptor or a USB flash drive connecte to its USB port. The alarm triggers in the laptop when its power adaptor is disconnected from the power outlet or the USB flashdrive is removed from the laptop.

Fig. 2: LAlarm software ready to install
Fig. 2: LAlarm software ready to install
Fig. 3: LAlarm options
Fig. 3: LAlarm options

LAlarm software also deletes sensitive data on the laptop through various settings to ensure that the data remains confidential if the laptop is stolen. There is a setting option to recover the data before permanently destroying it. Further, the software helps to prevent data loss or data corruption due to a sudden turn-off of the computer and/or physical and logical hard disk errors at an early stage.

LAlarm operation
Download LAlarm software from the Internet and install it on your laptop. After installation, LAlarm is automatically enabled and some alarm features are activated by default when the system is rebooted. The software works in the background of Windows applications.

LAlarm features
Prevents laptop theft. Produces loud audio alert in case of laptop theft. Can also sound an alarm if the laptop is left unattended for a long time.
Protects sensitive data. Permanently destroys data if the laptop is stolen.
Keeps it within a perimeter. Sounds an alarm when the laptop leaves a certain area. Helps prevent laptop misuse and provides more security.
Prolongs battery life. Preserves battery capacity. Alerts when the battery is low or under stress.
Prevents data corruption. Alerts when sudden power loss is imminent. Allows to save files quickly and shutdown before power loss corrupts data.
Prevents data loss. Alerts of physical and logical hard disk errors. Alerts at an early stage to allow repairs before data loss.
Prevents laptop failure. Detects deterioration of the hard disk drive.

LAlarm consists of five main alarms—theft alarm, perimeter alarm, inattention alarm, disk alarm and battery longevity alarm (refer Fig. 3). The theft and battery longevity alarms are already enabled. However, the alarms can be individually enabled or disabled from the ‘Options’ setting. The details of various alarms and their settings are given in ‘Help’ menu of the software. Note that some of the alarm features do not work in XP and lower versions of Windows OS.

Theft alarm and theft response feature are detailed below.

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Theft alarm. For theft alarm, connect the laptop to a power outlet (refer Fig. 4) or lock it down to a table using a USB flashdrive and its strap (refer Fig. 5). Activate the alarm by pressing Windows logo and L keys (Win+L) simultaneously. The activation is indicated by a beep sound.

Before pressing Win+L keys, wait until the LAlarm icon appears in the taskbar on the bottom-right side of the laptop screen. If there is no beep sound after pressing the keys, the theft alarm is not ready.

When the power adaptor or USB flash is removed, the theft alarm triggers to close the Windows application. The alarm continues to sound until it is disabled by entering the correct Windows login password. After four invalid login attempts, the user-account lockout is triggered. So take caution and remember your Windows login password before attempting this feature. For other alarms, there will be a pop-up window with some options to stop the alarm sound. The alarm can also be disabled from ‘Options’ setting of the software.

Fig. 4: Laptop locked to a power outlet
Fig. 4: Laptop locked to a power outlet

If there is no theft alarm alert even after the power cord or USB flashdrive is removed, it could be due to a delayed or disabled alarm time setting. Refer ‘Help’ menu to check this problem.

The alarm sound (except theft alarm) is subject to the system’s speaker volume settings. If the volume level is set to maximum level, the alarm sound will also be high. If the speaker volume is muted, there will be no alarm sound. However, the theft alarm setting will always be loud regardless of the volume level or mute state.

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Theft response. With the theft response feature, the laptop can be set to take certain actions or run a specificapplication without the user’s intervention in case of theft. The path of this application can be specifiedin ‘Theft Response’ setting. The application continues to run when a login account is locked out, so an unauthorised person cannot use the laptop. The theft response alert is also sent to you via an e-mail or SMS if you enable the alert feature.

Fig. 5: Laptop locked to a table using USB flash drive
Fig. 5: Laptop locked to a table using USB flash drive

In order to use the perimeter alarm and the inattention alarm, these need to be enabled and the safe zone define by entering the home IP address in the settings.

The battery longevity alarm is designed for lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, which is the most commonly used battery for laptops. When the battery level is down, the software triggers the alarm. The battery longevity alarm needs to be disabled if the laptop battery is not Li-ion type.

The author is a freelance electronic circuit designer, technical writer, columnist, consultant and trainer, and a regular contributor to EFY