How to best secure laptop data in case it's stolen?

Discussion in 'OS X' started by RickR, Jun 3, 2007.

  1. macrumors member

    Oct 28, 2006
    I have a MacBook Pro and I'm wondering what I can do to secure the data the best I can in case it's stolen. When I had a Windows Laptop I had a password to log on. I know someone could still get into it without too much trouble with a reinstall of Windows, going through DOS, etc.
    My question, what is the best way to do this on a Mac? I set up a logon password so when my screen saver comes up in a minute of no use it requires a password to get back in. Yet all someone has to do is a restart and for some reason it goes straight into OS X without asking for a password. Is there a way to change this?
    Is it possible for me to somehow encrypt my data to somehow further protect it? Of course I don't want to do anything that will slow my system down.
  2. macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
  3. macrumors newbie

    Apr 27, 2007
    System Preferences -> Accounts -> press the the "lock" icon, type your password and the "Login Options", which is directly under all your accounts, should be available. There you can remove the "Automatically log in as:".
  4. macrumors 68000


    May 3, 2007
    In front of my MacBook Pro
    Oh, filevault is your best bet... "... takes a supercomputer 3 trillion years to crack the encription..." if I remember that video correctly. Filevault is annoying because of its habit of asking you to regain lost disk space every time you shut down. And if you try to unencript, it goes crazy... my MB said I needed 4 TB of disk space, so I backed up my movies, erased them from the HD and it did it just fine. But set all the password things and filevault if you absolutely feel the need.
  5. macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2006
    in your pants
    I've heard some pretty iffy things about FileVault, so I'm not sure I'd go that route. Just get out your OS X install discs and make an Open Firmware password. That way, if your Mac gets stolen, the thief can't reformat your disk unless he knows the password and he can't do any of the "hold this (these) key(s) while starting up" key combos.

    Another thing that's really good, and that I've bought myself, is Undercover. So if your Mac ever does get stolen, then they can get it back for you. :)
  6. macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Undercover is a joke. Seriously. Know why?

    A) Laptops that get stolen, usually are sold quickly to get cash out of it


    B) If the thief is a hacker, he'll image the laptop to a external HD, nuke it and install a fresh OS that he'll have root access on, so that he can go back through your files at his own leisure.
  7. macrumors 601


    Mar 29, 2004
    Boston, MA
    wow, never heard of that. how exactly does it work and what are the risks?
  8. macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    Absolutely no risks.

    It just pops up a dialog to type in your firmware password whenever you hold down the option key (to pick a disk) or the c key (to startup from CD/DVD). All very elegant and simple like you'd expect.

    Use the open firmware password utility in the applications folder on the Mac OS X installation disc that came with your Mac.

    It's very important I feel, due to another little app that comes on the same disc, the reset password utility, which doesn't require any knowledge of the previous password.

    Cue mad scrambling to lock brothers/sisters/parents/flatmates out of their own computer...
  9. macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006

    Cue mad scrambling to lock users out of their loaner laptops
  10. macrumors 6502a


    Nov 21, 2005
    Raleigh, NC
    Unfortunately it's not too hard to reset an open firmware password manually. It's a good security measure but not the end-all solution to security.

    I wouldn't use filevault in most cases. I've heard of a few cases where the encryption gets corrupted and the data becomes irretrievable. At least if this happens your data isn't compromised. As long as you do constant backups this shouldn't be an issue... if not, it's probably a little too risky.

    I would suggest using encrypted disk images. This offers most of the advantages and convenience of file vault without nearly as much risk. If you create a sparse disk image it won't take up any more space then the files it contains. I have a few of these that contain data I wouldn't want recovered if I lost my laptop.
  11. macrumors 6502

    Jun 1, 2007
    use the apple data encyption thing and make sure you have a password for everything
  12. macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Security doesn't have an end-all solution. Security is built upon layers.
    I've never had that happen to my FileVault. The one thing I will comment on is that I had a strange few times where my iTunes library database ate itself. Though, I was using a very, very, very, on-the-last-leg Mac that did like to crash because of hardware failure, which might have been the issue.

    As long as your computer logs you out gracefully and shuts down gracefully you're okay.
  13. macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2002
    open firmware password can be defeated by removing a ram chip and rebooting.... but it is one more hurdle for the thief. Not all thieves know these tricks - it's like the "club" on a steering wheel - some thieves can get through them in 60 seconds, but most others will move on to another car.
  14. macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2006
    in your pants
    A) If the Mac has any kind of internet connection, it's gonna phone home to Undercover with network info, screenshots, and pics of the person using it via the iSight. It doesn't matter who has it.

    B) That's why I backup all my files regularly. I don't really have anything on here that would merit being a catastrophe if a complete stranger were to access them. As for someone who does have files like that, well, you got me there. :eek:

    Can a disk be cloned even if it's password protected?
  15. macrumors 68020


    Jul 31, 2006
    Same country as Santa Claus
    Sigh, if you can make a website, you can sell anything. :(

    "Undercover" might be a real company and their software works, but you don't even know if you are being scammed until you get your laptop stolen. Just because "they" say their software works, doesn't mean it does.
  16. macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2006
    in your pants
    You're saying it like it only pertains to them. It's really the same with any company. People need to try it for themselves to see if it's any good. If it's bad, some blogger would shout it across the internet so other people don't buy it.
  17. Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    I use Disk Utility and create secure images. In my case, I selected images the size of DVDs for backup purposes.

    Works well. When you go to mount an image, it asks for your password. Once mounted they work like a regular HD.

    Be sure to uncheck the remember password box.

    As soon as an image in unmounted, you must enter a password to remount it. Un-mounting an image occurs automatically when you restart or shut down your computer, but also when you unmount the HD image.

    I've been using them for years and secure images work well.

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