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Can Thieves Access Files on My Laptop Without the Windows Password?


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9 replies to this topic

#1 kjm782

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 08:39 AM

Recently my house was broken into and my laptop (among other things) was stolen.  I have backups of just about every file on that laptop so I'm not worried about data loss.  What worries me is a PDF of last year's tax return is saved on the desktop so my social security number could potentially be compromised.  The Windows 7 password screen comes up every time you open the lid so without that they can't log on.  Are there other ways to access the files on my desktop?  How worried should I be?  Thank you


Edited by hamluis, 06 February 2015 - 06:04 PM.
Moved from Win 7 to Gen Security - Hamluis.


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#2 krisisforyou

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 09:08 AM

I'd be pretty worried. There are more than a few ways that they could access your files without knowing your password. Cracking software, or booting into a Linux OS could do that with ease. Then again, it would depend on the kind of thieves these were. They could have just stolen it to sell it off immediately, and in that case, it would depend on who gets a hold of it at that point.



#3 Aura

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 09:11 AM

Hi kjm :)

Unfortunately, if the hard drive (or the partition) itself containing the PDF isn't encrypted, then they can access freely to it. They simply have to bypass the Windows password, which is quite easy to do, or to remove the hard drive, connect it as a secondary drive on another computer and they'll be able to access it. If you think that your financial data are compromised, I highly suggest you to call your financial institutions and lock your accounts and transactions and then get new cards, ids, etc.

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#4 JohnC_21

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 09:20 AM

I would also call the three credit bureaus,(Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and ask for a freeze on any applications for new credit. Depending on the state where you live, it is free.



#5 mikey11

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 09:49 AM

The Windows 7 password screen comes up every time you open the lid so without that they can't log on.

 

that password is easy to reset with the proper software (hirens boot cd, UBCD, etc etc) which is free

 

i get at least one call every week from people who have forgot their password to their own computer, i can reset it in about 10 mins,

 

even if they cant crack your password, all they have to do is remove your hard drive and hook it up to another computer, that would give them access to all your files


Edited by mikey11, 04 February 2015 - 09:50 AM.


#6 kjm782

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 03:49 PM

Is that true even for files that are stored in C:/Users/... like the files on the desktop or in My Documents?  Those are the ones that I am most worried about.  

 

The reason I ask is in the past when I've had a motherboard fail on me (since Windows doesn't like it when the chipset changes if you install a new board) I've used the Recovery Console to try and backup my files before wiping the disk and reinstalling the operating system.  I remember I had trouble accessing the files in C:/Users without the administrator password.  I had no trouble accessing any other files on the disk.  But, maybe that is just a limitation using the Recovery Console and you could use Linux to bypass that?



#7 Aura

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 03:51 PM

Yes, it's a limitation of the Recovery Console since you were still under Windows. And it can easily be bypassed by accessing the drive under a Linux distro or utility. I'm sorry kjm but there's good chances that all your files were or are accessed at the moment by the thief/thieves and I suggest you to take the necessary steps to prevent your identity to be stolen and/or your bank accounts from being stolen/accessed.

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#8 kjm782

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 05:52 PM

Thank you for the responses



#9 Aura

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 05:55 PM

No problem kjm, good luck to you with that whole situation!


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#10 Datcoolguy

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 01:08 PM

Unless they only stole the laptop, it's really likely they where looking for something to make a quick buck. So i doubt the robbers themselves would go around digging for your info. The smartest move on their behalf would be to re-install windows (formatting it in the process) and sell it as an used computer online. Just trying to ease your mind here. But it is true that if they where to be so inclined as to look trough your data to look for information on you they could open about anything but encrypted files.


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