Due to the portable nature of laptop computers, there’s a much higher chance of them getting lost or stolen. Unless you never take your laptop out of your home, you’ll want to take some extra steps to secure it so that your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Losing an expensive laptop is bad enough, but someone having access to your personal or financial data can quickly make the situation many times worse.
1 – Use a Strong Password
While you should password-protect your user account on any computer, it is even more important for a portable device like a laptop. Be sure to choose a strong password that cannot be guessed using a brute-force hacking tool. Strong passwords are longer, use letters, numbers and symbols and do not contain words commonly found in the dictionary. In addition to protecting your user account with a strong password, you may also want to set a password in the BIOS.
2 – Avoid Unsecured WiFi Hotspots
Wireless hotspots that do not require you to enter a password to connect might be convenient, but they are also not secure. When using an unsecured network, a hacker connected to the same network may be able to intercept private data leaving your computer. These unsecured networks are best avoided, particularly if you are entering password information or payment details online. For best security, try connecting via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) utility for all wireless networks.
3 – Disable Booting from CD or USB
Should your laptop end up in the wrong hands, a hacker may attempt to run a password-resetting tool or brute-force hacking utility. However, to run such software, they’ll need to boot the computer from a CD or USB drive. Since you’ll generally only need to boot from these drives when reinstalling or recovering your operating system, you can disable the feature from the BIOS. You will also need to password-protect the BIOS setup utility to prevent people from changing the settings
4 – Use a Proximity Alarm
Proximity alarms are cheap and useful gadgets that let you know whenever your laptop is more than a few meters away from you. Particularly useful when travelling through airports with your laptop, they will alert you by sending a message to your smartphone whenever the laptop is more that a certain distance away. Some of these tools come with useful additional features, such as the ability to remotely lock down a lost or stolen computer or even wipe the contents of the hard drive.
5 – Use a Kensington Lock
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to keep your laptop safe is to physically secure using a Kensington lock. These provide a cheap and effective way of keeping your computer secure from opportunistic thieves. A Kensington lock features a small metal cable, and most laptops have a locking port allowing you to connect them to any nearby fixed object. While these locks certainly don’t provide complete security, they do greatly reduce the chances of someone walking away with your laptop when you’re not looking.
6 – Use a Discreet Case
Purpose-made laptop bags tend to look exactly like what they are, making them glaring targets to thieves. Rather than showing everyone around you that you are carrying a laptop, try using a discreet case such as a typical backpack with an internal compartment for the computer. To be on the safe side, consider buying a compact laptop sleeve and carrying it around in a normal backpack rather than a bulky case.
7 – Get It Insured
If you’re going travelling for a while, and you’re taking your laptop with you, remember that it probably won’t be fully covered by a standard travel insurance policy. Although specialized laptop insurance is usually quite costly, it can be worthwhile for more valuable devices, particularly if you heavily rely on your computer for work. Accident and theft protection for laptops sometimes involves 24-hour replacement as well.
8 – Keep It with You
This one should be obvious, but many people fail to keep their laptops close at hand at all times. If you’re taking a taxi, for example, you should avoid putting your laptop in the trunk. When you’re travelling by bus train or plane, keep the laptop stored under your seat rather than in an overhead locker where it may be much more accessible to passing thieves. If it’s not practical to keep the computer close by, be sure to keep it in a secure, locked bag with the additional security of a bag protector.
9 – Protect Your Private Files
When travelling extensively with your laptop, you should take extra steps to protect your private files either by storing them on an encrypted hard-drive partition or by archiving them with a password to prevent unauthorized access. In fact, it’s best to leave your most important files at home, unless you need them while you’re away. Get into the habit of keeping as little personal or financial information as possible on your computer, particularly if you’re frequently on the move.
10 – Invest in a Screen Guard
A screen guard is a special layer of material that you can place over your laptop’s monitor to reduce glare and decrease the viewing angle. These useful accessories help to prevent people setting next to you from being able to view the screen. ATMs work in much the same way in that their screens are only visible to the user. Many people also prefer them because they are easier on the eyes, particularly when you have to spend a few hours in front of the computer.
While some extra steps are essential for keeping your laptop and the data contained on it safe, you should also apply all of the general best practices for keeping any computer secure. Always keep your operating system and drivers up-to-date, and make sure that you have a constantly updated antivirus program running on your computer. By getting into a few good habits you’ll be able to greatly reduce the chances of your laptop and, worse still, your private data landing in the wrong hands.