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Ask Slashdot: How To Secure My Life-In-A-Briefcase? 241

Posted by timothy
from the nix-the-self-destruct-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I used to travel with a book and some clothes in a backpack, and now my entire life fits into my briefcase. I have a laptop, a tablet, and a cell phone with access to all of my documents through Dropbox, and all the books I own are on my kindle. Aside from having about four grand in electronics, the bag has everything of value that I own. If that bag is stolen while I'm traveling, it will be more trouble than if my apartment burns down (while I'm not in it). What can I do to secure my life-in-a-briefcase?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Secure My Life-In-A-Briefcase?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:31PM (#39987491)

    Change your briefcase from 12345...

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:34PM (#39987529) Homepage Journal

      Four thousand dollars, you say?

      Remind me again, where do you live and what time do you leave each morning?

      • by PPH (736903) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:48PM (#39987647)
        Won't do you any good if the OP carries his stuff with him. You need to know which dark alleys he walks through.
        • by JWSmythe (446288) <.jwsmythe. .at.> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:14PM (#39989773) Homepage Journal

              Parking lots after hours are a choice with no witnesses.

              If he stops at a store on a regular basis on the way home, that works too. A smash and grab takes seconds, while a trip into any store takes minutes. No one cares about car alarms, you can trigger it and walk away, and no one will notice, as long as you aren't wearing a ski mask and looking totally suspicious. I doubt he carries his gear into every store he goes to.

              Most people's driveways feel safe, but are anything but. In most communities, people are inside, and wouldn't hear a thing. If there is security, their job is to observe, not confront. At best, they'll patrol a specific segment of the community every hour. At worst, once a night.

              His home itself if fair game. A bump key or lockpick gun will get you through virtually any residential doors with minimal hassle. 3am when everyone is sound asleep is the riskiest time. The door can even be locked on the way out to add to the confusion.

              For 4 grand cash (assuming it can all be converted to cash quickly), a stolen car and a staged traffic accident will stop the vehicle and get him out of the car with his doors unlocked.

              You aren't truly safe anywhere. You feel safe. A determined attacker will exploit any time he can.

              The best thing to do is, don't say you're carrying thousands of dollars of gear around. Don't look like you're worth attacking. I frequently travel in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a ratty backpack. Sometimes it'll have some books. Sometimes it'll have electronics. Sometimes I have enough firepower to pick a fight with a street gang (when going to the shooting range).

              I never look like I have anything worth stealing. When I am dressed to impress, with the necessary accessories, I'm traveling directly from point A to point B, where both locations are relatively secure.

      • by catmistake (814204) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:49PM (#39989597) Journal

        Four thousand dollars, you say?

        Many who purchase modern digital technology seem to be oblivious to the fact that it is not any kind of nostalgic keepsake, that almost without exception, it never appreciates in market value, and always depreciates quite rapidly (abiding by some corollary of Moore's Law). If there was $4,000 in cash, solid gold, or any precious metal, or even cocaine, it would be a different story. But the sad fact remains if the stuff in that briefcase is close to two years old (*and nothing in it was made by Apple, which for inscrutable reasons always retains a high resale value), then regardless of what you spent on it, its only worth, at best, half that, and is also replaceable with new for about half of what was spent (for the same level of technology). And the data? Unless one works for a secretive government agency, or Apple, then the data has no resale market value.

  • by black6host (469985) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:31PM (#39987493)

    Whatever you do don't handcuff your briefcase to your hand. At least not if you value your hand :)

    • Re:Don't do this! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JimDarkmagic (1339257) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:41PM (#39987587)

      Perhaps the handcuff is extreme, but don't leave it or its contents unattended. Use one hand at the urinal (if applicable), saving the other to hold the briefcase. Use stalls with walls on two or more adjacent sides, keep briefcase on side of toilet with wall. Don't leave it on the convenient little shelf by the door in the bathroom (think I've seen a lot of dumb stuff in the bathroom?) Don't leave the stuff on the table as you walk across a huge room get more food/coffee.

      Also, insurance for hardware, encryption for data. IOS has full disk encryption and Android might; truecrypt is cheap and easy to use and each major OS has its own native encryption solution.

      • by loom_weaver (527816) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:25PM (#39988981)

        My least favourite situation is when I've put my computer through the x-ray machine and then the line into the microwave gets tied up and I'm peering over security trying to make sure that no-one walks out with my precious....

        • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:31PM (#39989469) Homepage

          Agreed. While most people probably wouldn't think about stealing something with three dozen guards around, this is a huge personal security loophole.

          Every time I travel I see the opportunity to steal someone's stuff. If someone is "detained" for a second scan, their stuff is always left availble.

          I've even had security guards attempt to hand me laptop bags asking, "Is this yours?" It belonged to someone who was still on the other side of the body scan.

          Add that your personal items (keys and wallet, mostly) are in the little bin as well, and I'm surprised that not more theft happens this way.

          • Re:Don't do this! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by JWSmythe (446288) <.jwsmythe. .at.> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @09:53PM (#39991095) Homepage Journal

                Actually, there have been many reports of someone "accidentally" walking off with someone elses stuff. Laptops are easy. Pick it up, slip it in your bag, and keep moving. A quick Google search [] shows all kinds of numbers being thrown around. It's more than 1, less than 1 million.

                When I refuse to go through the "microwave" (as the GP said), they pull me aside for the patdown. I keep an eye on my stuff until they're finally ready for me. I've had to ask security on multiple instances to secure *my* property, so no one else "accidentally" takes it. On very rare occasions did they guess what all of my property was.

                I think it's nuts. They pretend it's a high security environment, where anyone (and everyone) might be a terrorist. Yet, they go with the honor system for collecting your property from the x-ray conveyor belt, and at baggage claim. I've only been through a few airports (Las Vegas, and a few international destinations) that check the baggage claim ticket to the baggage you're taking. I don't even know if they do it as policy, or because someone was bored and wanted to harass travelers.

        • Re:Don't do this! (Score:5, Informative)

          by drkim (1559875) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:00PM (#39989679)

          Don't put your bag on the belt until the previous person has cleared the detector.

          There are actually teams of two that work this way:

          Bad#1 Walks through detector
          You put your stuff on the belt
          Bad#2 Gets delayed at the detector (Ooops! I forgot those keys)
          Bad#1 Picks up your stuff
          Bad#2 is visually distracting you, goes though the detector again, gets delayed, or finally clears
          Your stuff is long gone, as is Bad#1

    • by (245670) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:23PM (#39987907)

      Duh. You hire three ninjas and give each of them a briefcase. Only one is the real briefcase. The others are full of ninja-style weapons.

    • by Auroch (1403671) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:29PM (#39989453)

      Whatever you do don't handcuff your briefcase to your hand. At least not if you value your hand :)

      In other words - the best investment in protecting yourself (and your stuff) is ... SELF DEFENCE. Not guns, not locks, not pepper spray ... but self defence of some sort. Not the "tournament style" martial arts that are so common, but a common-sense approach that emphasizes avoidance, while preparing you to respond physically if required. My recommendation? Take a look at Krav Maga [].

  • by The MAZZTer (911996) <.megazzt. .at.> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:33PM (#39987519) Homepage
    Of course you should take as many steps as possible to ensure you DON'T need to do damage control, but if you, Prey [] or something like it could be invaluable.
    • by cdrudge (68377) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:48PM (#39987645) Homepage

      Prey isn't very useful if the device doesn't have true GPS built in, so scratch it for a laptop and some tablets. Cell phones indoors to some degree as well. "Good news, we've narrowed down your stolen phone. It's somewhere indoors in a 1000 meter radius of cell tower XYZ"

      Plus, how intelligent is your average thief? If I was going to steal a laptop/tablet/cell phone, the very first thing I'm going to do is turn it off and/or remove the battery, rendering Prey and the like useless. The 2nd thing I'm going to do is wipe/reformat the device the first chance I can safely do so, rendering Prey and the like uninstalled.

      • by dmbasso (1052166) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:55PM (#39987709)

        "how intelligent is your average thief?" and "[...] I'm going to do is wipe/reformat [...]"

        Am I the only one who find this ironic? :p

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:45PM (#39988087)

        "Prey isn't very useful if the device doesn't have true GPS built in, so scratch it for a laptop and some tablets."

        Location services are FAR better than that these days. My own router is located on the map within a few yards of its actual location, and that's using WiFi only. Cell towers are less useful of course, but your laptop would probably be pinpointed within 10s of yards at most.

        If I was going to steal a laptop/tablet/cell phone, the very first thing I'm going to do is turn it off and/or remove the battery, rendering Prey and the like useless.

        Only for as long as it's turned off. As soon as it's rebooted, Prey is back on the job, sending pictures of the user (taken with the webcam) and screenshots. I've tested it on my own laptop, and it works very well.

        And as another responder replied, if the criminal is not too smart they aren't going to be wiping the hard drive. But even more than that: they're usually too lazy, or in too much of a hurry. They want a working phone or computer they can use or sell NOW, not something they will have to spend days overhauling first.

        • by Sancho (17056) * on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:00PM (#39988785) Homepage

          And as another responder replied, if the criminal is not too smart they aren't going to be wiping the hard drive. But even more than that: they're usually too lazy, or in too much of a hurry. They want a working phone or computer they can use or sell

          Emphasis mine.

          Anecdotally, our university will watch for MAC addresses of stolen computer equipment. According to one of the network guys, they've never had a hit. The equipment is sold on ebay before it is ever turned on on campus.

          What blows my mind is that no one ever buys it and then takes it to campus.

          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:08PM (#39989305)

            "Anecdotally, our university will watch for MAC addresses of stolen computer equipment. According to one of the network guys, they've never had a hit. The equipment is sold on ebay before it is ever turned on on campus."

            Which is precisely why something like Prey is useful. It will track the computer wherever it is.

            "What blows my mind is that no one ever buys it and then takes it to campus."

            Most thieves of this kind are not professionals or college students. They are usually drug addicts or people with similar problems, looking for a quick buck.

          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:10PM (#39989315)
            By that I mean: chances are good that it will never hit a site like ebay... it will be fenced or sold on the street for a small fraction of its market value.
      • by tibit (1762298) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:10PM (#39989317)

        On a Mac with a firmware password, it'll be a fairly useless thing to do, though... If you reformat, AFAIK it won't boot anymore (is that right?), and before reformatting, it won't boot from any other media but the hard drive (I'm sure of that). Plenty of thieves are silly enough to use the conveniently enabled guest account. That's plenty enough for undercover [] to check in, with their picture, too.

  • by mrvan (973822) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:35PM (#39987539)

    What is the problem you want to secure yourself against? The loss of 4k$? The loss of your data? The theft of your data?

    The 4k$ cannot be secured other than through old fashioned don't let them steal it and/or (travel) insurance

    The loss of your data is secured by diligent backing up, but if you rely on 'cloud' services that should be fine (I am sure that Amazon has some way of redownloading your books if your kindle is lost, no? DropBox certainly works as a backup plan). Make sure that the required configuration / passwords etc are somewhere.

    The theft of your data is also not so difficult. DropBox copies the files locally, but if you just encrypt the whole drive that is works on you should be fine. If your device (tablet/cell phone) doesn't support that, and you fear theft, don't use dropbox on it or get a better device.

  • by lowy (91366) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:36PM (#39987551) Homepage

    Get a rider on your home insurance policy that covers replacement of the hardware.

    Automate regular backups to the Internet to protect your software.

    Encrypt your data to protect your passwords, identity and privacy.

    Am I missing anything?

    • by Surt (22457) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:38PM (#39988025) Homepage Journal

      Given his entire life is 4k worth of hardware, it isn't clear to me that he does or can afford insurance. But he really didn't make either his short or long term budget for this clear, which makes it hard to make any recommendation.

    • by rwa2 (4391) * on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:01PM (#39988255) Homepage Journal

      Am I missing anything?

      A dry run! Any kind of backup or redundancy can prove to be pretty much useless if you never test it.

      The main thing I worry about is being out exploring somewhere and my phone dies leaving me without GPS. Sure, I could wait until nightfall and navigate by the stars, but what if it's raining?

      After a few dry runs of worst case scenarios like that, it should be pretty obvious what kind of information you want to replicate elsewhere (on a laptop, on a phone, in a cloud service, printed out / tattooed on your person). Just go through each set of gear (and then the whole briefcase) and work out what you'd do if it suddenly fell into a swift river.

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:12PM (#39989757)

      Clothes. Get a change of clothes. I know you want to look cool with your gadgets in that briefcase, but you're not going to impress anyone if you've been wearing the same clothes for the past two to three weeks. It also goes without saying that you should put a toothbrush in there, with toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc (in those little TSA-approved bottles of course).

      And please, do not take your gadgets abroad unless you really have to. Just assume that they're going to get broken, stolen, and/or scanned by border officials, and that even if nothing happens to them, you'll be so worried about losing them, that you won't be able to enjoy your travels as much.

      And personally, if it was just a vacation I was going on, the only thing I'd bring is a cheap kindle and a cheap pocket digital camera, but even those two items would be optional. The Kindle is cheap enough, it's no big deal if you lose it/break it. It's less likely to standout as a slick gadget, so you're less likely to be attacked for it. It has 3g worldwide mobile data access (if I remember correctly). And I assume that if it gets stolen, there is a way to block the thief from accessing your account.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:37PM (#39987559)
    Blackberry phone with the remote kill enabled. Someone you really trust with the necessary information to use it. When travelling, carry cheap spare phone with PAYG in car boot.

    Cheap laptop for travelling, good desktops at home and work, all synced via Dropbox, office desktop with Citrix. Also, spare laptop kept at the office and booted periodically to get updates.

    What's the tablet? Is its data synced?

    Kindle - can't help there.

    • by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:55PM (#39987711) Homepage Journal

      Doesn't Dropbox store unencrypted?

      • by heypete (60671) <> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:12PM (#39988887) Homepage

        The transfer to and from Dropbox is encrypted, and files are encrypted using a key that Dropbox controls and written to storage (Amazon S3, IIRC).

        The purpose of the encryption isn't so much to protect your files from Dropbox but rather to protect it from Amazon S3 and badguys who might go dumpster diving or try stealing disks. (I imagine S3 destroys their disks when they're replaced, but one's never sure.)

        Naturally, one should encrypt sensitive files before storing them on Dropbox. One needs to evaluate one's threat model: if the threat is thieves stealing the computer then it doesn't matter if the backups are encrypted or not (as the thief isn't stealing the backups, just the laptop) -- one needs to make sure the data is encrypted on the laptop itself before it's stolen and that backups are made and up-to-date.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:41PM (#39987589) Journal
    Some suggestions:

    1) Back up your stuff. To the cloud, if you expect to write a lot on your travels and/or expect to be able to replace and reprovision stolen devices.
    2) Keep details of your account credentials somewhere separate, where you can get to them easily via the web. Properly secured, of course. Use an online password vault or encrypted cloud data store that lets you access files via the web. Also store details of the devices and SIM cards themselves, as well as URLs or phone numbers of the services used to remote wipe/block those devices (if applicable). If your stuff is stolen, you'll want to be able to take quick action and have everything blocked.
    3) Properly secure the devices themselves, of course. Use screen locks / pin codes, and set any password vault software so that you have to key in the pass-phrase every time you use it (or per session).
    4) If you travel, it helps if you have a credit card with a high enough limit to replace your devices, if you need replacements right away.
    5) Check with your cell provider if you can get a separate (spare) SIM, or how you would go about getting a stolen SIM replaced and delivered to your address away from home. Do this before you travel.
  • $4,000???? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:43PM (#39987601)
    what the heck kind of high-powered applications are you running that require that kind of expensive hardware?
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:44PM (#39987607)

    Seriously, if it's that important, encrypt it and back it up in a dozen places.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:45PM (#39987617) Journal
    Contemporary fitness-use heart rate monitors with some flavor of very low power wireless connection are pretty cheap. One of those, plus a suitably sized explosive device, will allow you to ensure that your briefcase stays with you at all times. Or else. If you are feeling polite, scale to ensure the destruction of the contents. If not, scale to ensure the destruction of the would-be new owner of the briefcase.

    (In all seriousness, though, there really isn't too much that one can do to protect small luggage. There are a few mostly-obvious behavioral tips, don't put it down behind your chair where you can't see it, don't leave it in the cab, try to avoid using bags that have giant steal-me logos advertising the electronics within, etc. but that is about it. Your main focus should be on two things:

    1. If the bag falls into the possession of somebody else, have you taken measure to ensure that they can't get data access? Hardware can be insured, and really isn't all that expensive in the grand scheme; but if somebody has both your data and the oh-so-conveniently-stored-locally credentials for your 'cloud backup' you have a problem... 2. Backups, do you have them? Bags get lost, bags get stolen, bags get crunched by luggage handlers. If you can't restore yourself to what you had in the bag if I were to hand you equivalent-or-newer models of the laptop, tablet, and phone and internet access, you aren't prepared. If you can, then you are.)
    • An entirely legal alternative version of this would be to have the deadman's switch flag the unit as stolen, notify a server regularly of its IP and geolocation (if it can), and redirect all internet requests to show a "Reward if found" screen. (Or, if you're feeling worse and don't want to actually get the computer back, you can filter all the images to be Goatse. Or kittens, I suppose.

      • Whether high tech, as in your suggestion, or low tech, as in 'just a prominently visible label/bit of paper/nameplate somewhere inside, it is certainly a good idea to at least make it possible for a finder to have enough information to return it to you. If your devices are locked up tight, they won't be able to just fire up your phone and select 'mom' from the contacts list, as is customary.

        The world isn't overflowing with valorous do-gooders; but you might get lucky(especially if it quickly becomes clear that all the devices in the bag are locked down good and hard, so whether you found it or 'found' it, you'll need a tame geek or a chop shop in order to get any value out of the contents for yourself).

        An honest finder may not have the cability, or time, to engage in an epic manhunt; but would probably be happy to call up and figure out how to get it to some suitable place. A little sweetener doesn't hurt. Even a dishonest finder may realize, upon seeing the unwelcoming demands for unlock codes from every device, that the effective value of the gadgets just isn't all that great.
  • Pelican 1490 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:47PM (#39987637)

    I travel around the world, and this is the best case I have ever used. Well, my Pelican 1514 is a close second. :)

    It is waterproof, you can drop it or impact it and you don't need to worry about it, and it just works.

    You can also lock it, or lock it to something (in your apt when you are away). Don't lock it someplace at an airport and leave...

    I envy you in that you can fit everything in one case, I am trying to get down to one small car load with about 5-6 cases.

  • Easy solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:48PM (#39987641)
    Just spend about $600 and put a .45 on your hip. Should be perfectly secure against theft then, unless you leave your briefcase somewhere.
    • Re:Easy solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nitewing98 (308560) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:50PM (#39987663) Homepage

      Kind of hard to get through airport security with a .45 on your person. Just sayin'.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:54PM (#39987703)
        No, the .45 goes in your checked luggage. If you're going on a business trip, I doubt you go with just a briefcase unless you can fit clothes in there. Anyone who get's their briefcase stolen in an airport shouldn't be carrying around 4 grand worth of electronics on them anyway.
    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:55PM (#39988745) Homepage Journal

      Either you're aware of your surroundings or you're not.

      If you are, then there are only a few situations where the briefcase could walk away, many of which the .45 wouldn't help with.

      If you're not, then absolutely do not carry a deadly weapon.

  • by e**(i pi)-1 (462311) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:50PM (#39987661) Homepage Journal
    this is the main reason, why I do not have important things only on the laptop, nor use cloud services. Both are vulnerable. The former since a laptop can so easily disappear, the later because the company could go belly up or lose the data. Backing up on hard drives and store regularly encrypted versions in a safe place looks still like the best option. My personal backup has not changed since decades: sync regularly (via cron scripts) between multiple desktop machines at multiple locations, retire old harddrives regularly and have physical harddrive backups at multiple locations too which are not overwrritten. (Adding a mac desktop in the sync loop allows to use time machine also when primarily working in linux). I also work more and more on a laptop but always sync before and after using it for some work. Yes, it is a bit expensive but the financial pain pales when comparing to the agony to lose old work.
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:09PM (#39987813)

    I'm follwing the cult of less myself, and while not all of my important stuff fits in a briefcase, it does fit into one room without it looking cramped or stuffed with junk - and I plan to reduce my stuff even more in the next few years.

    Here's what I do:
    My Hardware: MB Air, Mac Mini, HTC Flyer, HTC Desire HD
    My local storage: 2 HDDs for TimeMachine, 2 HDDs for redundant backup, storage and archiving
    My remote storage: Virtual Debian Server for word stuff versioned and synced with Git via SSH (roughly ten projects currently ... all my current work of the last year)

    Disaster recovery via TimeMachine, Backup via two extra redundant external USB 3 2.5" HDDs, FS is HFS non-journaled for easy access from linux. Regular offsite versioning, archiving and backups via Git or SCP for the stuff I work on, Backup from Computers to HDDs via rsync. I rely on the Mac OS X AES 128bit encryption of the MB Air SDD for data security. My calendar is on Google and syncs with both HTC devices (anonymous/fake account) and iCal on the MB, my contact data is only in my phone. Still thinking about wether a fresh copy of 'Missing Sync' is worthwhile.

    I store all my notes in Evernote. I have the Evernote client hooked to my Evernote account on all devices.

    My next move will be an rsync setup with some low-power netbook/nettop PC running linux that pushed the contents of the HDDs to my server (rented virtual server running debian).

    If my stuff gets stolen I've got my backups. If someone breaks into my room and steals the HDDs aswell I'm in deep shit - until I get my off-site routine running that is. I've been consolidating my data handling for about a year now and it will take another year or two until I've got it all in place, i.e.: Full and total off-site backup and desaster recovery preperation, fully redundant local backup, archiving and storage, zero-fuss cross-device automatic project syncing and fail-safe, secure contacts and calendering. ... I'm not to picky with encryption, the 128bit AES is enough for my taste. It's not that I work for the CIA or something.

    Hope that helped.

  • by itsme1234 (199680) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:15PM (#39987863)

    Kudos to Apple for creating a need that doesn't exist really but what are people doing nowadays carrying both a tablet and laptop?!
    Now I somehow understand the "couch surfing" use for a tablet but really carrying a laptop and a tablet seems to be overkill (and still done by many people).
    You can check something quickly on your phone (which is easier to access than the tablet and most likely it runs precisely the same OS) and for anything serious you still need the laptop. So, why the tablet?
    And it's not some case of "why not if I can afford it". There's a big price to be paid in having an extra device apart from original cost and the extra weight: you need to take care of it, not to lose it, to recharge it, to install stuff on it, debug it if it doesn't work (even sending it back to manufacturer if it fails), etc.
    If you are very young (or very poor) and a little bit geeky you probably welcome anything that works on electricity, from a 1GB USB stick to a nice used laptop. But there is a point where it's just too much and even if it's free it's just not worth it for the extra complexity.

  • PacSafe bag cages (Score:4, Informative)

    by at.drinian (1180281) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:23PM (#39987909) Homepage
    There's a company called PacSafe that makes what are essentially collapsible wire cages you can wrap your bag in, and then chain the bag to something solid, like a drain pipe: [] That being said, I went around the world a couple of times without one of these, and did just fine. They tend to draw attention.
  • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:26PM (#39987921)

    When you say you're in deep shit, what do you mean?

    If it's a matter of just losing the data, then all you need are backups and travel insurance to cover the cost of the gear. You'll be inconvenienced for that trip, but once you get home you can replace/restore. For example, IIRC, all your kindle purchases are recorded in your account, so you're a new kindle away from restoring everything.

    If you are concerned that the data you carry could be used by others to destroy your life (eg: identity/credit theft), then the single best thing you can do is to not put yourself in that position in the first place.
    If you're concerned about losing your equipment, leave your good stuff at home and bring a lower quality equivalent instead. For stuff like your laptop, leave it at home, turned on, and either running hamachi (very easy) or set up tomato/ddwrt on your router and configure it for VPN (more complicated). Assuming you have easy internet access, your a link away from any data you might need.

    If you HAVE to have instant access to sensitive data, then encrypt. All the major operating systems now have either full disk encryption built in or have it available via third party (such as truecrypt). That way even if something important IS stolen, then at least they'd have a really hard time making use of the data.

    Additionally, there are tools you can get such as Prey, which will serve as a location service to help you locate stolen gear. I believe it works for mac, windows, linux, android and ios.

    The only big concern that I'm not sure how to deal with would be to remote data-wipe your cell phone. If it's a big concern, you may wanna do the phone equivalent of what I mentioned earlier: temporarily use a spare cell phone that doesn't have all the critical data on it. Alternatively you could research the possibility of remote data wipe services.

    Incidentally, a number of the above items could (and probably should) also be used on your equipment for day to day activities. Being at home, but having your laptop stolen during a break in, could be just as devastating as if someone nabbed your stuff while abroad.

  • Redundancy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:28PM (#39987931)

    First thought, you need a redundant provider to dropbox. Get Amazon or another provider to also sync your data. You sound like a road warrior and having been a road warrior your data is your life. Second thought, how are you going to survive a complete loss of your briefcase on the road? What have you done to encrypt your data? What have you done to have your devices home phone so that you can try to have police recover them?

    You can replace tools like a phone or laptop, what is your gameplan to do so? Do you have credit capacity to replace everything on the spot? Insurance is a pain and can take weeks in a best case scenario to send a check. How are you going to document tat you secured your belongings in your room? If you can't prove use of a cable or the like and a police report no insurance company will replace your belongings?

    Where is your password vault? It should not be in your briefcase?

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:31PM (#39987951) Homepage

    Anybody have any tips regarding using whole-disk (or home directory) encryption using Ubuntu?

    What about re-installs of the OS (an unfortunate necessity)?

    Do you have to continue using the same password in order to keep being able to decrypt the home directory?

    • by itsme1234 (199680) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:43PM (#39988067)

      Huh, have you ever installed Ubuntu during the last years? It asks you if you want to encrypt (encfs) your home (and of course you can change the password later on, although it won't help you if an attacker had access to the machine in the meantime).
      "Whole-disk" encryption is also available in the alternate installer (and it looks and probably is identical with the one that exists by default in the debian installer). However for some reason the recent versions of the "alternate" are a mess, at least in my experience.
      Upgrades/reinstalls are also no problem (if all goes well) although I hope it's obvious that backups are a must.

  • people still use briefcases?

  • by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:08PM (#39988319)
    If your life can be packed into a briefcase, you are missing somebody important in your life. Oh wait, this is slashdot...
    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @09:01PM (#39990835)

      heh ya, thats only a laptop and half a phone with their applecare

      on a side rant fuck applecare, its a great reason to not get apple products. A coworker spent nearly 3 grand on a laptop package with photoshop and applecare. It died 2 weeks after purchase, the geniuses took his machine for 2 weeks, while he was still attending the classes which prompted this purchase in the first place. When he got it back it was of course the same machine, which I stated laughing my ass off saying

      "Dude they just took you for a ride, you paid full brand new retail price for a refurbished laptop that you cuoldnt use for two weeks effecting your grades ... and your dumb ass paid extra for the privilege."

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:09PM (#39988337) Homepage Journal

    I am highly mobile and also carry my laptop and tablet in my briefcase. However, I chose the sturdiest, most versatile briefcase [] I could find. At 7.5lbs empty, it weighs nearly 20lbs with my gear in it and is not something a thief could easily run off with. The leather it's comprised of is 1/8" thick and has only 3 seams, and being leather, keeps the contents at a moderate temperature, which is excellent for electronics which may be heat sensitive.

    My laptop, tablet and cell phone are all Apple products, which have the "FInd my Mac" feature allowing the devices to be located whenever they access a network. While not an anti-theft tool, the "Find my iPhone" and "Find my iPad" features have been shown to be quite useful in recovering lost and stolen iDevices. The "Find my Mac" feature is more questionable since most Macbook Pro users with even a hint of a clue will have their user accounts secured, meaning there is likely no way to associate the computer with your iCloud account even if a user logs in via the Guest Account. But if your briefcase is stolen with your iPad in it, the chances are pretty good that you can recover your iPad and briefcase. However, you'd be better off not placing your briefcase in a position where it could be stolen. If I were more paranoid, I would likely buy a GPS or RF transponder to stash in the deep recesses of my briefcase so that I could recover it regardless of net connectivity.

    However, what happens if your briefcase is stolen with your laptop and tablet in it and they can not be recovered? Fortunately, iCloud helps alleviate this -- but only for app data and iTMS purchases. For my Document data and Software projects, I use an AWS Micro instance with Gitolite, which aside from allowing me to share and stage my development projects with other developers, it allows me to sync my entire Documents folder to the server. And being Git, it's easy to add certain files and directories to my .gitignore. To me at least, AWS Micro instance is the ideal remote backup solution since you can image your instance, effectively making a backup of the backup, it's on the cloud, so you can back up from anywhere you have a net connection and a Micro instance is free for the first year, $15.00/month after that, which is pretty cost effective.

    So to sum it up for the tl;dnr crowd:
    Get a hefty, durable briefcase that will both protect your gear and hinder theft
    Buy products that enable tracking in case of loss/theft
    Get a serious backup solution and use it

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:11PM (#39988373)
    The TSA is rife with thieves; even the rich and famous are not safe in this regard.
  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:13PM (#39988403) Homepage

    A briefcase is a terrible place to hide a horcrux.

  • by RKBA (622932) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:40PM (#39988637)

    I have a laptop, a tablet, and a cell phone with access to all of my documents through Dropbox, and all the books I own are on my kindle. Aside from having about four grand in electronics, the bag has everything of value that I own.

    No extra clothing? Your socks must stink horribly!

  • by Dusty101 (765661) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:54PM (#39988727)

    How about one of these? []

    "Try not to lose it so quickly this time, 007."

  • by tombeard (126886) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:20PM (#39988935) []

    and a small cable lock []

  • by Zadaz (950521) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:34PM (#39989031)

    Even if you chain it to your wrist, other things can happen beyond theft, such as damage from carelessness or accident. And tech can just fail.

    Keep $4K in a bank account at all times so you can immediately replace it. When I was living out of a case this saved my bacon more than once. Keep remote backups (encrypted, naturally) so you can get back your data.

    Get insurance as well, but don't expect it to pay out in every situation or in a timely manner.

  • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:37PM (#39989057)

    Use an ugly, battered briefcase that looks like it would contain nothing of value. Camouflage is a time-honored method of defense across multiple species. Not foolproof of course, but there's usually lots of potential targets for a thief to nab and they have to make their choice at a glance, try to convince them that someone else's bag would make a more profitable target.

    It can also help to write contact info "If found please call ......" in a clearly visible location in indelible ink on both the case and your most valuable stuff so that if it finds its way into the hands of an honest person you've got a chance of recovering it. Offering a reward may boost the chance even higher. Especially handy if you're concerned about the non-resalable stuff, a thief may well grab out the high-dollar items and then dump the rest where someone honest may find it.

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:22PM (#39989399) Journal

    The combination of backing up everything, encrypting everything, and insurance that other posters have mentioned should work. One thing to make sure of, though, is that you can get access to all your data back. If you're using a password manager, make sure the encrypted file is backed up to somewhere you'll have access to without the briefcase. Make sure the master key is backed up somewhere else -- like a USB drive kept in your apartment or a safety deposit box. Along with that you'll probably want to keep passwords and information you'll need quickly; your main email account password and your backup service password for instance.

  •   I also have a life on the road. I have had many things stolen. This is my philosophy now.

      I don't spend a lot on technology anymore. I only buy what I think will be useful and what I need for work. The laptop I use is very old, my phone is quite old. I find I don't need much more.

      I looked at the Galaxy Note and said to myself "Yes, that would be very useful in that I can use it for ebooks, as a phone as well as some light tasks when I've left the laptop at the hotel... but...
      it was ~$800!" How am I going to be able to use that when I want to? How am I going to pull that out on the underground in Columbia?

    So instead for a long time I went with a Nokia E71. When that broke instead of getting a new Android I went with an old Galaxy S1 at about £100. If this gets stolen I have a backup and I can buy locally. I always buy within the limit of 'would I cry if I lost it' now. This is actually a relaxation on my strategy. Before I went with things that didn't attract attention because I didn't want to go through the psychological aspect of getting mugged - now I just go with things I can afford to lose as long as it's not every month.

    Cloud backup doesn't work for me. The bandwidth just isn't there. This makes things complicated and messy. For the phone the best I can do is copy SD cards and upload as and when I can. Need to improve a system there, to create a habit.
    As for the hard drive, this is a problem. It's just a lot of data, too much for cloud storage. Only about 10gb of the 300gb 2.5" HD is important but this needs to be organised. However, even 2gb is too much bandwidth in some places to backup regularly. What to do? It's difficult. When you got a lot of data you need a lot of space extra with which to move it round and organise it.

    As an interim I treat the hard drive with a lot of care:
    - put just the hard drive in the hotel safe
    - take the hard drive out of the laptop and hand carry through airports
    - back up selected things when I can (but this is too infrequent...)

    I had another phone stolen last year. It had everything on there. Thankfully encrypted but because I decrypted that file almost daily to remember things like bank account numbers I couldn't use a password to match the level it should have done. This is a problem I have even now. Somewhere out there there's a SD card with enough stuff to cripple me. The thing is, because I didn't have a recent backup I'm not entirely sure if I've changed all my passwords. Let this be a lesson to you! Thank god I encrypted. You only have to put the lightest protections to reduce the risk by 95% but really I wish I'd done more.

    I find a lot of this security advise can be crippling in a working environment. Convenience is critical. You have to assess your risk and strike the balance. If you overprotect then the cure can be worse than the problem. For example, if your password takes you 20 seconds to type, and you get it wrong 1 in 5 times how much is that costing you on productivity and is it worth it for that particular thing you're protecting? I would say protect that data but don't worry too much on hardware and instead cut the cost of replacing it. The typical thief just wants your phone but the info on it usually takes a bit longer to be a problem.

    2 factor authentication is very useful on the road. If you had your laptop stolen you might need to login to your home ssh server via some shady internet cafe. Think about this. Have one time passwords as an optional extra. Think about 2 factor auth for your phone like Google Authenticator. Have some backup codes listed somewhere. Can a relative available by phone have a copy? Don't label it and they most likely won't even know what it's for.
    If you lose your phone have a number remembered that you can call to get to a backup of your stuff including bank etc.

      Writing this is all very useful. I will have to have another look at this because I've seen some holes now.

      Finally, what would happen if all the banking system went tits up like it did for people in Argentina? If you went to the ATM and it didn't work and also you couldn't make any purchases? I happened to me for 2 weeks and it was pretty humbling.

  • by rhook (943951) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:44PM (#39989947)

    If you are worried about losing it you should have those items insured. On top of that keep your data encrypted and make regular backups (I would avoid Dropbox while you're at it, there are better services).

  • by kenh (9056) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:51PM (#39989981) Homepage Journal

    If everything is in 'the cloud' the electronics are just dumb terminals - buy a spare of each, ship the spares to a mail forwarder (like a mailbox etc.) and leave the spare there. With one phone call your electronics will be replaced in 24 hours.

nohup rm -fr /&