Protect yourself against theft

By Mike Berg / January 28th, 2012 / Blog / 3 Comments

This is not directly related to game development, but I’ve had a few friends fall victim to theft lately, and the devastation of losing years’ worth of family photos and client work files; not to mention everything else we store on our devices. Below is my list of tips for helping secure yourself against losing data, and maybe even devices. I’m regularly surprised at how few of these steps people actually follow, so I thought I’d post them here and maybe help someone out. This is what I do myself; if you have other steps you take, please share them in the comments.

– Get a paid Dropbox account ($100/year for 50 GB) and put your current projects in there. Not only does this backup off-site, it also gives you access to your files from anywhere, if you need them. This might not be enough for many people to store all their work *and* photos, though.

– Use iCloud for contact & calendar sync across all Apple devices, as well as iOS device backup. You can also use iTunes Match to “store” your music in the cloud; your mileage with this service may vary, depending on your music collection.

– Use Apple’s Find My Phone service to register all your devices. This lets you locate your iPhone, iPad, iPod and even your computer, anywhere in the world. Not 100% guaranteed, but it definitely can help. It can also let you remote-wipe your iPhone (which is no loss because you’ve backed up to iCloud, and can restore it later).

– Add an “If found” message to your lock screen. This is more likely to (potentially) help if you lose your device, rather than have it stolen. But it can’t hurt; maybe your phone will be found by someone honest. Download my Photoshop template to make one easily:

Most important: Require a password to get into your computer and your iPhone. On the iPhone, go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock and follow the instructions. At the very least, this will keep people out of any sites you might have been logged into, like Facebook or Google Docs, as well as all your email.

On the Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy:

– Create a guest account on your Mac with no password, so that whoever stole your computer can get online. This will help the “Find my Mac” service (above) locate the computer.

– Please note: These steps do not prevent someone with physical access to your computer (who knows what they’re doing) from booting with a system disk and wiping the computer completely, restoring OS X to its default settings. This would prevent “Find My Mac” from locating it. There is a way to prevent this, though. This is a bit more of an advanced step, but you can set a Firmware Password on your Mac, that prevents a user from changing the boot disk on startup (which is what is required to wipe the computer). Read more about this topic here.

This won’t necessarily protect you from theft, but you should also have everything you own backed up. Apple has made this very easy with Time Machine. Just get a nice big external hard drive and plug it in. Two quotes that hit this issue square on the head:
“It doesn’t exist if it doesn’t exist in two places.” and “The biggest mistake people make is to trust their hard drive.” Every hard drive WILL fail, eventually. If one Time Machine isn’t enough for you, I recommend getting something like a drobo, which makes sure all your data is stored on 2 drives, in case one fails.