These days, it seems that just about everybody uses a laptop or notebook computer to get work done away from the office or on the road. Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of laptop computing has made portable systems an easy target for theft. I have been summoned in the last one month, 8 times to help on how to track a stolen laptop and assist in recovery of data from recovered devices. If your laptop computer is stolen, or if someone gains access to your files while your back is turned, your company information—not to mention your personal and financial data—can be exposed.
Looking for information about security features you can use on your laptop to keep your data safe while you travel? This article covers some of the most pertinent. If you’d like more general security suggestions (whether on the road or at the office), check out 10 ways to work more securely.
Use these 10 tips to learn how you can help protect your laptop from theft when you’re on the road.
1. Avoid using computer bags
Computer bags can make it obvious that you’re carrying a laptop. Instead, try toting your laptop in something more common, like a padded briefcase or suitcase.
2. Use strong passwords, and do not keep them in your laptop bag
Strong passwords that are difficult to break or guess can thwart unauthorized access to individual files and even to the entire operating system. Learn how to create strong passwords:
You can also check the strength of your password by typing it into a password checker like this free one offered by Microsoft Security.
Learn how to password-protect your files:
Of course, the strongest password in the world won’t help if you give it away to a thief. Keeping your password with your laptop is like leaving your keys in the car. Without your password or important access numbers, it will be more difficult for a thief to access your personal and corporate information.
3. Encrypt your data
If someone should get your laptop and gain access to your files, encryption can give you another layer of protection. With the Windows operating system, you can choose to encrypt files and folders. Then, even if someone gains access to an important file, they can’t decrypt it and see your information. Learn more about how to encrypt your data:
4. Use a screen guard
These guards help prevent someone from seeing your screen—even if he or she peeks over your shoulder. They can be very useful if you need to work on sensitive information in a public place, and they are especially helpful when you’re traveling or need to work in a crowded area. The screen guard from Secure-It is just one example of a screen guard you could use.
5. Carry your laptop with you
Always take your laptop on the plane or train rather than checking it with your luggage. It’s easy to lose luggage and it’s just as easy to lose your laptop. If you’re traveling by car, keep your laptop out of sight. For example, lock it in the trunk when you’re not using it.
6. Keep your eye on your laptop
When you go through airport security, don’t lose sight of your bag. Hold your bag until the person in front of you has gone through the screening process. Many bags look alike, and yours can easily be lost in the shuffle.
7. Avoid setting your laptop on the floor
Putting your laptop on the floor is an easy way to forget or lose track of it as you talk at a ticket counter or order your latte. If you have to set it down, try to place it between your feet or leaning against your leg, so you’re always aware of it.
8. Buy a laptop security device or program
If you need to leave your laptop in a room or at your desk, use a laptop security cable to securely attach it to a heavy chair, table, or desk. The cable makes it more difficult for someone to take your laptop. There are also programs and devices that will report the location of a stolen laptop. These work when the laptop connects to the Internet and can report the laptop’s exact physical location. Absolute Software’s LoJack and its line of Computrace products, for example, offer physical location tracing in addition to capabilities for remotely disabling a missing computer, retrieving or deleting data, and more. Search for more computer tracking and recovery solutions.
9. Try not to leave your laptop in your hotel room
Too many things have been lost in hotel rooms. These rooms may not be completely secure. If you must leave your laptop in your room, put the “Do not disturb” sign on the door to keep hotel staff out. Don’t leave your laptop at the front desk, either.
10. Affix your name and contact info to the laptop
Security experts advise that you affix your name and contact information, along with a promise of a “Reward if lost or stolen—no questions asked,” on the computer. These can help improve your odds of getting the computer back in the event of theft or a simple mix-up.
What to do if your laptop is stolen
- Change your network password to help secure access to corporate servers.
- Report the theft to local authorities (such as the police) and to your company’s IT department.
- If customer data was on the laptop, contact your account representative, legal representative, or appropriate person at your company so they can take the necessary actions.