suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

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What would be an advisable solution for protecting office computing
equipment with physical cables/locks so that they are not stolen?

I looked at a few links

Saw a vendor who does it for offices but their products
are pricey(90$ for a lock which can be used to secure one computer only)

We need something in the range of 30$ which can be used for one computer.

Would the products at
( product link shortened)
be OK for our need?

The laptops don't have a USS(Universal Security Slot) or Kensington lock
slot in them and the desktops are HP machines.

Any advice on opinions of low cost and good quality protecting devices
would be welcome.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

g wrote:
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Smith & Wesson have some excellent theft deterrent hardware.

Unless you're prepared to strip-search everybody leaving the premises,
There's not much you can do.

Virtually ANY lock mechanism will deter the
"drive by" theft where you just pick it up and run.

Anybody with a few seconds of privacy can defeat most anything
you do.  Just ripping a laptop lock out of the plastic reduces the
resale value, but wouldn't deter anybody who wants a personal laptop.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

mike wrote:

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What I find humorous are those cable locks which use permanently glued
pads to secure the computer to a table top.  Often users of these stick
them on the desk's top.  Um, you do realize that it is a laminated
surface on glueboard to which you are affixing the pad?  Just peel up
the laminate to break it.  In fact, the cable gives you something on
which to yank to peel up the laminate to break it.  Off they go with the
computer and the cable still attached with a patch of laminate stuck to
the cable pad.  You could attach the self-stick permanently-attached pad
to the steel side of a workdesk but check if it can be easily pulled
apart or dismantled with just a crescent wrench or screwdriver (they're
often modular and just bolted together and 2 minutes with a screwdriver
is all it takes).  

Reminds me of the owner of a car shop that cabled his ironwork patio
furniture by his company for use by his employees during breaks.  He
cabled it to a tree.  Someone came with a chainsaw and cut down the tree
and took his patio furniture.  The tree, to him, was more valuable than
the patio furniture.

The office environment was never described.  Without that info, my
suggestion is the employees remember to lock their office doors.  If
there are cublicles then lock the doors to those areas.  Managers or
security guards need to kick out the employees to secure the area.  If
you are paying for a cleaning crew to come in after-hours then have the
security guard watch them or make sure they know they are being recorded
on video, and get an agreement from the cleaning company that they are
responsible for property that goes missing during their shift on your
premises.  If you're going to cable the computers to something, make
sure it is something heavy that cannot be easily dismantled or
destroyed.  Forget trying to protect against someone that drives their
car through your nice big windows and hooks up a tow rope to the
security cables.  A pack of thieves hitting a company with bolt cutters
don't care that you cabled up your equipment.  Some even come with an
air compressor and pneumatic bolt cutters to easily cut some rather
large diameter cables.  Some cable sellers want to claim their braided
cables protect better.  Bolt cutters still slice through them.  You can
get *cordless* bolt cutters (
so no air compressor is needed for really thick cables or padlocks.
Cabling thwarts the casual or opportunistic thief, not by planned or pro
thieves or even someone that brings tools.  That's what insurance is
for.  Locking your car doors only stops walk-by thieves.  Anyone can buy
a spring-loaded nail punch from a hardware store that carries easily
inside a pocket and used hidden in a curled palm to bust out your
windows without a lot of noise and get inside your car.

Thieves don't want exposure.  An alarm would add signifcantly to the
value of a cable lock.  No thief wants to endure ear-piercing sirens or
have everyone looking at them running along with a screaming meemy.  Be
prepared for the occasional "fire alarm" at your company when an
employee forgets about the security alarm hooked to their computer.

The OP needs to decide if they are going to spend some real money on
real physical protection for their hardware or just spend a little money
on tinkertoy protection to thwart on looks alone or hope the thief
doesn't have any tools with them.  The cable tang on a desktop computer
case is usually just a tang of metal with a hole.  No tools needed for
that.  Everyone knows you just bend metal back and forge to fatigue it
to break.  A large wire snip concealable in pants or coat pockets or
purses can cut the plastic bar even if reinforced with a metal rod
inside that is across the security cable-through hole in the plastic
cases on most laptops.

If concerned with data security (which wasn't mentioned so we have to
assume the hardware is more value than the data) then start looking into
laptops that include onboard logic to encrypt the entire hard disk or
into whole-partition/disk encryption software.  If the correct password
isn't entered on boot then nothing from the disk can be read.  Of
course, be prepared for employees calling the help desk saying they
forgot the password, and for disgruntled or fired employees that already
know the password that steal your stuff.  If data is the most important
asset, first protect it and then decide if you want to waste money to
protect the hardware.

For company resources, I would think they would be more interested in
protecting their data.  Second to that would be protecting proprietary
software (unique, rare, or vertical market stuff or development code).
Thieves can steal software without dealing with stealing hardware so
they don't need to steal your hardware to get apps that are available
online or in stores.  You're not trying to protect your free or
commercial apps plus their installation media is somewhere else that is
hopefully under lock and key.  Then the company should be insuring their
property.  Lastly and only to prevent the nuisance of resource outage
and insurance claims would be to physically secure the hardware.  If
that choice is made, it shouldn't be a haphazard or cheap choice.  There
is a big difference between trying to keep the hotel maid or other
opportunists from walking off with your laptop and pros or even repeat
amateurs that deliberate on how to steal your property and often have

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

On 8/28/2010 5:29 PM, VanguardLH wrote:
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Thanks for the detailed advice. We have to get alarms, but they have
been disarmed by thieves in neighboring offices when their equipment was

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What measures would suggest for getting real protection? As you
mentioned that planned thieves can circumvent most security measures.
Even banks who spend lot on protecting themselves get burgled.

Thanks again for your advice and time.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

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I always thought that it would be funny to hook a fast-acting fog
machine up to the burgler alarm. Then, once the area is filled with fog
so thick that you can't see your hand in front of your face, it'll be a
real pain in the ass for anyone in room to do operate effectively. lol

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

ShadowTek wrote:

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Actually you might want to hook up halogen to the burglar alarm (which
is also connected to the fire alarm).  Then you can smother the thieves
if you dump enough halogen in the closed area.  Halogen is not
breathable.  Like flour, halogen isn't toxic but you can't survive when
breathing it into your lungs.

I had a friend (well, someone I knew but not really buddy-buddy friends)
that hook up a row of huge capacitors in his trunk to the door handles
that he isolated on his car.  The caps would charge during driving.
Someone rubbing against the car with their clothes wouldn't discharge
the trap because it was low voltage but high current (which could be
lethal).  The idea was to stun anyone that attempted to open his car
(but obviously by first trying the door handles to see if the car was
already unlocked).  I found him one day after the end of school lying
beside his car.  He lived but with a burn hole through his palm.  He
forgot about his own trap.  This guy was the dangerous type: enough
knowledge to make him dangerous to himself.

Instead of an alarm or fog or guards or cables or restraining devices,
one idea is to use an ink-squirt alarm.  The perp gets sprayed with ink
that won't wash off, like the ink bomb the FBI puts in with a ransom or
the ones that squirt out ink at whoever is in front of the fire alarm
breaker box.  You might not catch them immediately or at all but they'll
have to explain why they have that huge blue- or bright orange-colored
birthmark.  Of course, your employees won't appreciate the skin tone
alteration when they forget about your ink traps.  The problem with any
extreme measures is that they leave you open for lawsuits from your
employees that get nailed by them.  Damn employees: can't live with 'em,
not allowed to really terminate 'em.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

g wrote:

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An alarm exposed with an opening in the case is easily disabled with a
screwdriver shoved in to destroy the speaker.  It is when you catch a
thief off-guard that the alarm is useful, not when they have planned to
raid your building.

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You can do the cabling scenario but that only protects against
opportunistic thieves.  You could get vicious guard dogs but they can be
easily dispatched with a shotgun or quietly so with body padding and a
taser.  For the professionals that break in (where they may not even
break anything to get in) to steal your stuff, get insurance.  Use
whole-disk encryption to protect your data and routine daily backups to
ensure you still have access to the data.  A company should be caring
more about their information than of the computer is was on.  As a
business, you need to recover your operations.  Get another host and
re-image the backup onto it and the employee lost maybe a day's worth of
work.  Figure on having to replace the hardware due to theft.  It also
breaks down and has to get replaced.  You might get targeted by the FBI
and have all your computers confiscated.  You need to plan for both data
and hardware replacement or you're out of business when the thieves hit.

If an intelligent perp who has time to plan their operation wants to
murder you (and you take no preemptive action), you are going to end up
dead.  Get insurance to reduce impact to others.  For computers, there's
real insurance (or a fund for hardware replacement) and then there's the
insurance of having encrypted data the thieves cannot use and the
insurance of recovery from backups.

I've seen data centers that were targeted by some anti-apartheid
activists because that data center dealt in business with South African
businesses.  They drove a truck through a brick wall, ran in behind the
truck, and took baseball bats to the mainframes and blade servers.
Having walls, locked doors, employees on duty, and entry guards did not
deter these perps.  Obviously the data center is going to sell their
service to whomever buys those services and to whom they are legally
permitted to sell those services.  If you're passive, you lose against
violence.  So are you going to sit at work in the dark after hours with
a shotgun loaded with slugs to protect your computers?

Some of the cables you showed you already knew were crap.  If you're
going cheap then doing bother going there at all.  You can get as big of
braided cables that will fit through the security loops in the hosts and
use top-notch so-called bullet-proof padlocks but that still won't stop
bolt cutters or dismantling of whatever to what the cable is attached.
There isn't anything humans can build that they cannot destroy, and
destruction is often easier than construction.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

On 8/28/2010 10:34 PM, VanguardLH wrote:
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Yes, but we want to make it as difficult as possible(within the budget
we have) so that the burglars instead of spending time breaking the
cables in our office leave for other easier targets.

If a thief figures he has to do a lot of work to take equipment from our
office, he may leave. Our data is not something which the thieves can
use/sell to make money.

An alarm is a good idea as Sonitrol told us that if their alarms are
ever cut/tampered they will alert the law enforcement which is one
determent at a low cost of around 2K one time installation cost and
450/year for monitoring fees.

The idea is to use some cables and a alarm solution which would be low
budget and would serve as a proper barricade against theft. The cables
are not very high quality, but hopefully combining them with an alarm
solution like Sonitrol can prevent most thefts.

I did not know if using the products of
  would be any better. They are more expensive than Dell ones, but I did
not know about their quality. Would getting them instead of the Dell
ones be better? I know both can be broken by someone who has the proper

I appreciate your advice and time.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

g wrote:

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I would stay away from the Dell (or anyone else's) locks that you linked
to that fasten onto the VGA or serial ports.  One, some laptops don't
have serial ports (old technology, not many serial-ported devices
anymore).  Two, some cheap laptops don't have a VGA port to connect an
external monitor.  Don't know what all laptops you have to ensure they
all have a VGA port (but I'll guess that they don't have serial ports).
Three, these back/side-panel ports are merely soldered onto the
motherboard.  They are not permanently affixed to the case shell (or
they only have tiny screws or slots of plastic in which they are
affixed).  Someone yanking on a cable locked to a VGA port will end up
destroying that connector.  Now you have a damaged laptop that the thief
chose to try to steal but decided to leave behind.  Four, you may have
employees that can't stand or have medical reasons for not spending
hours upon hours focused on a tiny LCD monitor that is part of a laptop.
They connect an external monitor to give them a bigger screen and use
its increased resolution by upping the DPI to make the objects stay the
same size while improving their focus (more DPI + same size means
sharper objects).  So you won't have a VGA port on which to lock the
cable because a monitor stays attached to the laptop while it is being
used and left at the office.  To me, it seems a very stupid idea to be
locking a security cable to any connector peeking through the case

The problem with CompuCAGE products is size and weight.  They are like
typical cable locks but have bars that clamp onto the laptop case.  This
is okay when you pretty much want to leave the cable lock at one
position.  If you move the laptop, like take it to a customer site,
you'll have to lug this thing around in a separate bag as I doubt it
will fit in the laptop's carry bag.  It does have the very nice feature
of using the bars clamped together when the laptop is closed so it can
not be opened.  Even if not locked down, a thief (that knows what they
are stealing) probably wouldn't bother stealing a laptop that just ends
up being a door stop because they can never open the laptop.  Instead of
round key slots which are harder to pick (unless you have the proper
locksmithing tool that helps a lot with these), they have flat keys.
That just requires a pressure pick (you insert and twist so the pins are
under additional friction and likely to stay in place when lifted so
their shear point matches the cylinders edge) and a pin pick to lift the
pins in place.  At least they use 2-faced keys (pins on both sides)
which are harder to pick.  Of course, nowadays laptop theives don't
carry lockpicks.  They carry bolt cutters.  But the bolt cutters only
free the laptop so it can be moved.  With CompuCage, and if you remember
to do it before leaving the laptop, they can be used to clamp down the
laptop to force it to remain closed.  If the thief has some time to
think, they'll realize that what they steal will end up being a useless
brick.  Alas, most thieves grab and run so, yeah, they can't use the
laptop but neither can you due to its absence.  I would expect the
CompuCAGE products to cost more simply because there is more metal in
the product than a simple cable lock.  You're getting a cable lock AND a
caging bracket assembly.  Not only can you use the cable to fix the
location of the laptop but you can also prevent anyone from ever opening
and using the laptop.  The cable would deter walk-by thieves.  The
caging of the laptop for security would deter those that get a private
audience with the laptop, like hotel maids or employees at the customer
site you visit.  So they're definitely better but I'm not sure they are
comfortably portable.

I do see one potential problem (besides portability) with the CompuCage
products: how are you going to access the side ports, like USB, or the
CD-ROM drive's tray when the laptop is caged?  The security device works
by clamping in the laptop on its side (the locked-down caging has the
laptop's corner stuck in slots in the cage's supports).  When the laptop
is locked onto, say, a desktop with its lid open (so it is usable),
those side brackets for the cage are overlapping the sides of the
laptop's bottom half where are USB ports, drive trays, card slots (and
some laptops have the VGA port on the side so forget attaching an
external monitor while the laptop is caged).

There does seem to be a weak spot in the CompuCage products.  In the
balled/ribbed bar on one end that slides into the locking recess of the
other half, the diameter of the bar is smaller.  It seems someone could
put their knee against the keylock and grab the two edge brackets and
pull back to bend the cage.  Then they bend it back, bend it again, and
repeat to fatigue the metal to eventually break the locking bar and
release the laptop from the cage.  Here you would have a thief with no
tools that would simply bend and break the cage and then walk away with
the freed laptop.  Does CompuCage claim their cage brackets and the
locking bars between them are unbreakable?  If so, do they warranty that
claim with a policy to reimburse you for the total cost of the laptop if
it got stolen because the cage got bent and broken?

I suspect you can forget about using a laptop dock (at work) into which
the laptop gets plugged so it's quick and easy to connect to an external
monitor, mouse, and keyboard.  It looks like the cage brackets would get
in the way.  The cage would also probably interfere with a tilt stand
for those employees that don't like flat keyboard positions or want the
laptop's screen to be placed higher so their neck doesn't get sore
looking constantly down at the screen.

This disadvantages (at work) for the cage would be circumvented if
employees simply removed the laptops from the cage while they were using
them.  But are you really going to trust employees to lock up their
laptops when they leave for the day?  Are you going to give the keys to
the employee (so they can remove the laptop when they want to use it,
like insert in a docking station or somewhere else at work) or are you
going to store the keys elsewhere (which means employees have to
checkout the keys, like when they need to take their laptop to a
customer site)?  From what I've seen, employees don't take the keys with
them when they leave their laptop locked at work.  They hide the key
somewhere inside their office or cubicle.  So the thief just hunts
around looking for hidden keys, much like visiting a cubicle and lifting
a keyboard to see the password left on sticky notes attached underneath.

You could try the cages on just a couple of heavily used laptops at work
where they might move around while at work or go off-site for customer
service.  That would let you get trained on how well they work, if they
interfere with using the laptop, are a pain to transport with the
laptop, and what to do about managing the keys.  If they're found overly
nuisancesome then move them to shared laptops, like those on a table
where many users need to use the computer and decide on something less
cumbersome for the heavy-use or everyday-use laptops.  Test the waters
with a limited trial of the cage-style cable locks.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

On 8/29/2010 9:24 PM, VanguardLH wrote:

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First, thanks a lot for the very detailed response. I highly appreciate
your time and advice.

Our laptops have VGA ports. When they were got, it was needed so that
they can hook to an external monitor/projector.

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We need something which can protect our laptops/desktops when we leave
the office at the end of the day.

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  If you move the laptop, like take it to a customer site,
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When we take the laptop outside our office, we may not need it as the
thefts we are trying to prevent are those which happen at night when our
office is closed. We have less likelihood of thefts happening when we
take it to another office.

It does have the very nice feature
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The idea is to use it outside the laptop outside its cage and lock it
before you leave
the office at the end of day.

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Your knowledge about these products is fabulous indeed. I have to check
with Compucage about it.

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We plan to do that.

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We have to educate the employees to take the keys with them after
locking it at the end of day.

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How would the products at be
for our need?

Can that be used as a way to secure our desktops at a low cost which
generally are stationary?

Would you advise any cable/cage locks for our need which we can get for
low cost? I know, good security does not come cheap, but we have to
ensure we stretch our limited budget to get something which can provide
enough protection to deter most thefts. Compucage is fine, but a bit
pricey around 90 for each unit we want to protect. Can we get a similar
another product at a lower cost from another vendor?

Thanks again for all your suggestions and time.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

g wrote:

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Remember that these locking docking stations are NOT just to secure the
position of the laptop.  They are also to make it easy and quick to snap
the laptop in the dock to attached to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse
that are left connected to the dock.  Are you really going to have your
employees manually yank the VGA, keyboard, and mouse cables (and some
include USB docking) everytime they want to move the laptop?  That means
you risk the employees wearing out the connectors, bending them, bending
the pins in the cables, snapping tangs off network cables, and so on.

If the portability of laptops is not why you got them, why did you waste
money on laptops when you can get better features in a cheaper desktop?
You pay a price premium to get a laptop for which a desktop has similar
features.  The only reason to pay the premium for a laptop is because of
its portability.  If the laptop is always locked down, spending more for
a laptop that doesn't go anywhere was wasting a lot of money.  Since you
wasted the money to buy laptops that don't go anywhere, it seems
contradictory that you don't want to waste money on high-end security.  

You paid extra for laptops that don't anywhere.  Why the sudden change
in decision to not pay for extra security that you believe is unneeded?
Someone was drunk when they bought laptops that aren't going to be

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Can't describe it other than a recess in the case with a bar atop that
spans the recess.  I haven't seen this in a long time.  The locks that I
see are the studs that go into a recess in the case or at the hinge.

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I wouldn't bother with the schemes that phone home to report where is
the stolen laptop.  If the thief is stealing your laptop because they
want the hardware, they wipe the drives and install whatever they want.
The pinging software is gone.  If they steal it to get the data, they
don't even want to boot the OS on the laptop and instead will boot using
a CD or USB flash drive or remove the hard disk and insert as a slave in
another host.  None of the software on your laptop is runnning.  The
pinging software is there but it isn't running.

Also, if you rely on some pinging software to identify where is your
stolen laptop then you cannot claim the insurance to recover its cost.
You are wasting time trying to retrieve the laptop.  If you claim the
insurance on the laptop, why would you waste time trying to help the
insurance company recover the property for which they paid?  Once they
pay, the laptop is their property, not yours.

Does your insurance company give you a discount on your policy if you
provide proof or evidence that you are locking up your laptops?  If not,
why would you help them when they won't help you?  Once they pay the
claim, it isn't worth their time and effort to retrieve the stolen
laptop unless the claim (for the laptop alone, not for accessories or
data) exceeds somewhere over $2800.  Ask your insurance rep at what
threshold they will surviellance and cooperate with the police in trying
to recover stolen property.  There's a reason why insurance companies
don't go after the offending party: they lose because it costs them more
in man-hours and resources to retrieve an item that is under a cost
effective threshold.

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Sorry, you are asking me to rate the quality of the cables (resistance
to bolt cutters, strength in the number of pounds to snap them during
pulling, and the qualify of their locking mechanisms).  Other than
recommending to NOT use those that have dial combinations (use keys), I
can't tell you if the product is crappy or not.  I'm sure that someone
could probably snap the cable if it were thin enough.  I didn't see any
that listed the strength of their cables to make sure someone that puts
the laptop against the soles of the feet and wraps the cable around
their wrist to pull hard in a reverse cruch couldn't snap the cable.

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Alarms that don't contact anyone are rather useless unless you are
trying to alert the surrounding employees.  That means it is useful only
during on-hours at work.  How many times have you heard a siren go off
in the grocery store parking lot?  Did you run over to catch the perp?
Did you see anyone else rushing over to the screaming car?  Sirens are
to scare off a thief, not to bring attention AND action by surrounding
observers.  Those that emit a super-loud blast that hurts the ears are
better than just plain sirens.  Of course, expect complaints from your
employees who have to suffer when someone forgets to disable the alarm.

You better check how much the alarm company and cops charge you for
responding to a false alarm.  My dad had an alarm that alerted the alarm
company and called the cops.  It didn't take long with false alarms to
spend more on "response fees" before the cost of the alarm system was
exceeded.  It will probably take only 2 false alarms to exceed the
yearly subscription cost to the alarm service.  So check what the alarm
company charges to respond to alarms.  Check what the cops charge that
get called by the alarm company (many locales have them charging for
every alarm).  You'd think your taxes pays for their coverage but I've
seen, for example, where an apartment owner got charged by the fire
department to show up (although there was no fire).

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

#1 Encrypt all drives.
#2 Remotely located backups.
#3 Renters/Home owners insurance. (Make sure its "Replacement Value")
#4 Be very particular about who you allow in your home.

Thats about as secure as you can get. If someone wants your stuff bad
enough they can get it no problem. It's just a fact of life.


Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

On 8/31/2010 9:02 PM, PostMaster wrote:
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Thanks for the advice.

Re: suggestions for low cost and good quality theft protection hardware devices

On 8/31/2010 3:58 AM, VanguardLH wrote:
Thanks again for your advice.

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I get it, the docking stations are better than the compucage products,
but also are more pricey.

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We need portability, but we don't take them out of the city every week
or so. Few times in a year, when someone has to go to a conference then
he will take it. Someone has to do a presentation in the main office
room for which he will use his laptop. Mainly, we want to protect
whatever computing equipment(laptops/printers) we have in our office.
The printers are big/heavy enough so we hope most thieves won't bother
with them.

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I was not counting on the software schemes a lot. I just wanted to
mention how I got the Amazon link. The software schemes would be useful
if the thief is dumb and tries to pawn it on craigslist/ebay. Yes, as
you suggest most would wipe but sometime things like Lojack can help
as most manufacturers embed a recovery chip on their system boards, so
that even if the thief replaces the hard drive, the computer will still
be able to make that SOS call. Yes, that also can be defeated, but just
an additional layer.

They claim to have a high recovery rate meaning software does offer some
help in getting some of them back.

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No, I was asking a brief opinion like some very useful views you
mentioned for Compucage and Dell cable locks just by viewing them.

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Well, Sonitrol claims they contact the law enforcement when their alarm
is triggered who reach the incident site within few minutes(5 mins, they
claim). Also, the thieves would panic due to the alarm and leave things
to escape rather than taking all things with them.

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Yes, if there are a lot of false alarms by the same person they will
fine that person, but those are cases where the owner forgot to set it
off or some rodent tampered with the wire. In lot of cases, they alarms
work which is why people/companies get them.

I appreciate your continued time and advice. Thanks a lot. You have been
a great help.

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