The Return of the Prodigal Laptop
Posted on February 26, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 24 Comments
Someone, I’m not going to say who except that he has the same hairstyle as me and lives in the same house and also goes by the same name, left his laptop at the Burbank TSA on Sunday — he forgot he’d taken the laptop out of his backpack, and thus just collected his luggage and backpack and forgot the bin that held the computer in it. Fortunately the Burbank airport has a lost and found, and the computer was turned in to it. After the person there ascertained that indeed it was my laptop, and I was not just a scammer calling in to try to pick up free hardware, they sent it back to me. It arrived today, apparently none the worse for wear.
It was a best case scenario for a lost laptop for a number of reasons. The first was that it was found, of course, and turned in to the correct place. The second is that it incurred no damage either before or during its shipping back to me (indeed the person who shipped it to me packaged it so thoroughly that it was something of a challenge to free it from the packaging, so kudos to them). The third is that there was no incursion into the computer itself — the laptop has a fingerprint scanner and is passworded so no one can get into it without my permission. The fourth is that even if there had been I don’t keep any (unencrypted and passworded) sensitive information on this laptop, and had no critical files on it — two cheers for cloud storage.
Finally, if it had not been found, I could have just remotely wiped it and dealt with it. While it’s annoying to me to lose a laptop, I can both afford to absorb its loss and if necessary to buy a new one. It’s why, when I realized in Atlanta, between flights, that my laptop wasn’t in my backpack, my immediate reaction wasn’t a stomach-dropping panic, but rather a more mild “well, shit,” and a calm retracing of my steps to where it was lost, and a Google search to find out how to get it back. At no point did I panic or wonder how I was going to have to get along without it. I wanted it back — I’m happy not to pay for another laptop, thank you very much — but it didn’t put a hole in my life or really even my mood. That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly, and which I am grateful to have.
So, welcome back, laptop! Please do not pull a stunt like this again. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
And yes, this is the second time I’ve left a laptop at an airport (actually the third, since I left my old Macbook Air at two different airports; once I got it back and the second time I… didn’t). Obviously I don’t want this to become a trend. And yet, I clearly have this propensity.
A password will do nothing to protect the data on your laptop unless it’s a Full Disk Encryption Password. On Windows, your options are either VeraCrypt or Bitlocker. Otherwise, opening the case, unscrewing the screw holding the SSD and plugging the M2 SSD into a different device allows full access to the files. Including your browsers password database, which is unencrypted(Chrome) or unencrypted by default(Firefox)
So your cloud storage is less secure than you’d think, unless you have 2FA. Which on Google Drive you have by default. I’m not sure what other cloud storage you use.
(rolls eyes slightly)
Thank you for assuming I’m a complete fucking idiot when it comes to my computer security, Pikolo, I do certainly appreciate it. You may assume when I’m talking about casual incursion into my laptop, my omission about a larger discussion of my data protection does not mean it’s not protected, either on the laptop or in the cloud.
Dude. TSA precheck!!!! $85 for 5 years. You’ll never take your shoes off or have to take your laptop out of your bag, ever again. Not to mention shorter TSA lines.
I’ll be thinking of you the next time I hear “Jane Smith, please return the the TSA Checkpoint to collect your property” on an airport PA system. Which will probably be in April, since that’s my next scheduled air journey and during most trips I hear that sort of announcement at least once.
I’ve found over the years that most people (with us it has generally been hotel people) have been really nice and helpful about returning things we’ve left behind (though I never left a laptop). My wife tends to forget her purse – the scariest time was in Tivoli in Copenhagen when she left our passports and travellers cheques! – but so far (fingers crossed) it has always been where she left it, or turned in by a good samaritan.
Sorry, and good job! I’m afraid my habit is to assume the worst and hope for positive surprises, which has the side effect of coming across as an asshole.
Lol. It happens. Thanks for the clarification!
In fact, I do have TSA Pre, BUT it turns out that Burbank is one of those airports that doesn’t break out the TSA line. So I got to keep on my shoes, but had to take out the computer. Which is probably why I forgot it.
Thank goodness for honest people. A few years ago, before I was familiar with cloud storage, I would have been devastated at losing a laptop. Now, I agree, it would just be an inconvenience. BTW, how do you set up a remote wipe? Is that a service you pay for (because that’s all I saw when I did a Google search)? Or is it something that came with your laptop, sort of like Apple’s “Find iPhone” app?
Lucky you. I left something at TSA in Orlando a year ago, and it was 5 days before they shipped it back to me. It was all intact and undamaged, and everyone was helpful, but it took a lot longer.
I really couldn’t imagine you not having it. I’ve had that happen, too. Usually it’s in rinky dink little airports. I figured LA would have to have it.
(And oooh, my first response!)
TSA Pre – pay us money to make life easier. Well not really, but you can keep your shoes on.
Until we say otherwise.
I’m considering sticking a Tile ™ on nearly every piece of tech I travel with – mostly so I can find all the things.
Really nice reunion with your writing equipment. Say what you will about saving to the cloud, it takes longer than anticipated to set up a computer. A complete drag!
Personally, I deal with this security risk by making a point of losing only other people’s laptops.
When you realize that you have forgotten something it do pierce a hole in your mind. (a bit Babylon 5 reference here)
As I read this, I was frantically thinking about what I need to do with my laptop. Thanks for serving as a warning!
Hey, misplacing your lap top, that could happen to anyone.
But this HABIT of misplacing your lap top, uhm, that ain’t gonna get better as you get older. (shifty eyes) Not that I would know anything about that.
Pikolo reached out his hand to the ark of God to steady it, for the oxen were making it tip. The Lord’s anger burned against Pikolo because of his irreverent act: thinking God a complete fucking idiot who couldnt steady his own cart, and therefore God struck him dead.
— 2 Samuel 6:6-7
So, welcome back, laptop! Please do not pull a stunt like this again. Thank you in advance for your cooperation…..And yes, this is the second time I’ve left a laptop at an airport (actually the third, since I left my old Macbook Air at two different airports
I don’t think it is the laptop that is the problem here.
I’ve only once lost a laptop and that was when my home was burglarized. Against all odds, I got it back. It turned up a week later at the site of a triple homicide! I never felt the desire to find out the grim details, but I fortunately had all the receipts proving ownership and it was as easy as writing a letter to court clerk with attachments. I got everything back except the floppy (this was some years ago) that was in the drive. I figured the police took them to see if there was any drug dealer info on therm. Overall, very lucky for me.
Nice to know about browser unencrypted password database, Pikolo. (And a great plot point. Idiot grins happily.)
Glad you got your laptop back.