How to Avoid Theft of a Mac or iPhone While Traveling – My Tricks

How to Avoid Theft of a Mac or iPhone While Traveling – My Tricks
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I have a Macbook Air. In my opinion the best laptop for me to get work done while traveling to remote locations. It accompanied me during my two months trip around Southeast Asia and nothing happened to him. Nobody stole it and maybe it was also thanks to one trick I invented. A sticker I will tell you about.

In a van on Cambodian road
In a van on Cambodian road

It’s a rough travel in Cambodia. Road is dusty and the van I am traveling with is pushing its way forward. An amazing Asian countryside is outside the window and air condition in the van is working at 110%. When you give your backpack to the driver, he stuffs it under the seat crushing everything inside it. In Cambodia, they use every last inch of space. Everything is tight. That’s why I have my Macbook always with me in a red string bag with a pair of socks and water inside. To prevent it from damage.

When I am in a hostel and need to do some work or check emails & Facebook, my laptop is always ready. One thing is not let your possessions get damaged by a driver and another one is to avoid theft. It is unlikely, but there are some people which could make a use of your stuff. Sometimes locals, sometimes other travelers. Call me paranoid but I like to be safe and keep my stuff locked.

Locking your valuable things

I never let my iPhone lay on a bed in a hostel like some other travelers do it. I know that in most cases nothing happens, but I don’t risk it and have my phone and wallet always with me. If I need to lock my valuables including laptop into a hostel’s locker. I use my own security padlock I brought from home. My favorite brand is Tokoz.

Tokoz padlock
Tokoz padlock

Tokoz is a Czech brand which is harder to find outside The Czech Republic, but there are few a bit more expensive alternatives. You should look for a padlock with a disc tumbler lock inside it and not pin tumbler lock. Those are often “easier” to lockpick with two paperclips or lockpicks. I know what I am talking about because I’ve tried it with success. Especially those cheap Chinese ones. The padlock has to be robust of course, but not too big that it won’t fit into a hole of a locker. So again: non-Chinese robust enough padlock with disc tumbler lock and you are okay to go.

Brand new and shiny camera always draws attention.

Ugly iPhone case

When photographers travel to 3rd world countries, they make their equipment (especially lenses) look ugly by sticking something on it. Some duct tape or cloth. Because brand new and shiny camera always draws attention. The same could be applied to your electronics – computer and smartphone. For the iPhone, I use the ugliest rubber case I could have laid my eyes on. It looks really ugly and because it’s made from rubber, it stays on flat slippery surfaces like that little table in a plane and is not falling on the ground all the time.

Ugly iPhone rubber case preventing theft
Ugly iPhone rubber case preventing theft

Making your phone look ugly prevents it from theft. I traveled with my new iPhone in South America and making photos at a party place called Lapa in Rio de Janeiro while drinking with my friends even if I’ve heard about violent assaults happening there, nothing bad happened since the shiny apple logo was not visible.

Data encryption

Whistleblower Eduard Snowden once said that the universe made encryption easier than decryption and that’s why people have a right for privacy. From nature itself. If you are traveling to a country where you expect that someone can get unauthorized access to your data, the safest way to protect your privacy is to Turn on the FileVault (for Mac users). Your startup disk gets encrypted.

FileVault in OS X Yosemite
FileVault in OS X Yosemite

The same applies to PCs BUT, there is no integrated solution for Windows users. For a long time, there was a TrueCrypt which worked well but it’s founder left a mysterious message about a vulnerability of their product with no further explanation. Right now an audit of the open source of TrueCrypt is under way so the decision to use TrueCrypt is up to you. Some say it’s still safe.

Ugly cover for Macbook and a sticker

To make my Macbook Air stealth I use this black cover with a screen protector from Aliexpress. Pick the non-transparent version – also helps to prevent from some unwanted damaged and hides the attention drawing Apple logo. U can use your imagination to make your computer even more ugly by using duct tape or scratch the black cover a little bit. This cover will get dirty and ugly very soon by itself anyway.

Macbook anti theft sticker I made
Macbook anti theft sticker I made

Now is the time for the trick I was telling you about in the beginning. It is the last defend before your computer disappears in a void of crime. It’s a sticker. A sticker which would draw doubts into a mind of a criminal and maybe convinces him to reconsider his disrespectful act.

I’ve heard that stickers with specific text and logo can reduce theft by ~10%. Let’s say it’s true.

The sticker costs $0.5 and you leave your $1000 MacBook Air unguarded for a brief moment. There is a chance of 20% that somebody will take it. If the probability lowers to 18% by the sticker itself, the sticker saves you $20 every time you leave your laptop somewhere.

That’s why I made my own version of a sticker saying: “Don’t steal it, device won’t work, plus thieves are prosecuted.” It’s actually a true statement. If my Mac gets stolen, I would lock remotely making it useless for the new owner. He can only sell the SSD.


I designed this sticker and let printing office near my home print them and cut them with a laser. Now you can do the same because I am offering you a PDF source of the graphics. Download the sticker here. That mine is 9cm (3.5 inches) wide so you can tell your printing office to do it the same way.

And that’s all folks.

Did you like my article? Please like it, share it and tell me what you think about it.

Raccoon courtesy: Davrozs

2 thoughts on “How to Avoid Theft of a Mac or iPhone While Traveling – My Tricks

  1. would be great a locker for laptop to be used in bars , especially when you work by yourself and no one can watch your pc if you go out or go to the toilet :)

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