Due to the portable nature of laptop computers, one of the major disadvantages of owning a laptop is that there’s a far higher chance of getting it lost or stolen.
The biggest concern with laptop security is a thief gaining access to your personal or financial information. I mean, losing an expensive laptop is bad enough — but someone having access to your personal or financial data would make the situation many times worse.
Unless you never take your laptop outside of your home, then you’ll want to take these extra steps to secure it — so that your data cannot end up in the wrong hands.
Here are 10 ways to keep your laptop secure and keep the data stored on it safe from prying eyes.
#1 – Use A Screen Guard
A laptop 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.
It prevents people sitting next to you from being able to view the screen. ATM’s work in much the same way in that the screen is only visible to the user.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best laptop screen guard.
#2 – Use A Discreet Case
I have a shiny pink Jessica Simpson bag that I love toting around with my laptop inside. I’m pretty sure I’m at least safe from a male thief picking up that bag and throwing it over their shoulder!
Seriously though — there are so many laptop bags that tend to look exactly like what they are: laptop bags.
There are some like the messenger-type chromebook bags that make it less obvious to thieves that you’re carrying a laptop.
Rather than showing everyone around you that you’re carrying a laptop, try using a discreet case such as a typical backpack with an internal compartment for the computer. And to be on the safe side, you should definitely use a laptop sleeve when carrying a laptop inside of a larger bag.
Here’s how to make a laptop sleeve out of a FedEx envelope.
#3 – Avoid Unsecured WiFi Hot Spots
Wireless hotspots that don’t require you to enter a password to connect might be convenient — but they’re not secure!
When using an unsecured network, a hacker connected to the same network could intercept private data as it’s leaving your computer.
Avoid using an unsecured network — especially when you’re entering password information or payment details online.
TIP: Make all of your online purchases from home.
For best security try connecting via a virtual private network (VPN) utility for all wireless networks.
#4 – Disable CD & USB Booting
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 this feature from the BIOS.
You’ll also need to password-protect the BIOS setup utility to prevent anyone else from changing the settings.
Here’s a useful list of the 5 things you need to do as soon as you buy a new laptop.
#5 – Use A Proximity Alarm
Proximity alarms are cheap and useful gadgets that let you know whenever your laptop is more than a few feet away from you.
From a keyfob in your pocket, it sounds a siren if the equipment to which the alarm is attached exceeds a certain distance.
Many of the proximity alarms on the market today are unable to attach to a laptop, but one can easily be stored in your laptop case. A thief probably won’t stop long enough to check what’s inside the bag they’ve just lifted.
#6 – Use A Kensington Lock
One of the most obvious ways to keep your laptop safe is to physically secure it using a Kensington lock.
The average price for a Kensington lock is around $32 — totally worth it, if you ask me!
IT departments particularly like keyed locks with master keys that IT managers can use to lock or unlock any unit. And the Kensington lock company offers a service called Register & Retrieve, which allows businesses to keep detailed records of all their locks and order replacement keys.
A Kensington lock has a small metal cable, and most laptops have a locking port allowing you to connect them to any nearby fixed object.
Here is a quick video tutorial that shows you how to install a Kensington lock.
#7 – Get Your Laptop Insured
If you’re going to be travelling for awhile and you’re taking your laptop with you, it probably won’t be fully covered by a standard travel insurance policy.
Laptop insurance can cover all sorts of things, including:
- Accidental damages
- Power surges
- Liquid submersion
- Many other incidents
Knowing what you want covered is the most important part. For example, if you have a damage-proof laptop case, then maybe you just need theft coverage. If you have a college student with a new laptop, maybe you need full coverage.
Although specialized laptop insurance is usually quite costly, it can be worthwhile for more valuable devices and any proprietary information you have.
Here are some reputable laptop insurance providers.
#8 – Keep It With You At All Times
Keep it with you? You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, duh!”
Even though this should be obvious, many people fail to keep their laptops close at hand at all times.
If you’re taking a taxi or an Uber for example, you should avoid putting your laptop in the trunk. (Yes, people do this!)
When you’re traveling 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 your computer close by, then be sure to keep it in a secure, locked bag with the additional security of a bag protector — for an extra level of laptop computer protection.
Here are the top reasons laptops go missing at airports.
#9 – Encrypt Your Private Files
When traveling extensively with your laptop, you should take extra steps to guarantee that your private files have extra laptop computer protection.
File encryption relies on 3 principles:
- Confidentiality – keeping your data private.
- Integrity – the accuracy of your data.
- Availability – keeping your web server online and data available.
Here’s how to set up encryption on your most important files.
#10 – Use A Strong Password
While you should password protect your user account on any computer, it’s even more important for a portable device — like a laptop.
Recently, I shared some social media and Internet security tips — including things like how to set a strong password and how to use 2-factor authentication.
Remember, the goal is to choose a strong password that can’t be guessed using a brute-force hacking tool. Strong passwords are longer, use letters, numbers & symbols, and don’t contain words commonly found in the dictionary.
In addition to protecting your user account on the laptop with a strong password, you may also want to set a password in the BIOS of your laptop.
Here is some great information about setting up a password for your BIOS.
The Bottom Line…
Always keep your operating system (PC or Mac) and drivers up-to-date. Also, make sure that you have a constantly updated anti-virus program running on your computer.
Never forget that laptop computer protection is vitally important — especially when using your laptop outside of the home.
By getting into a few good habits, you’ll be able to greatly reduce the chances of your laptop and your private data from landing in the wrong hands.
In addition to using these extra steps to keep your laptop and the data contained on it safe, you should also apply all of the general best practices for keeping any computer secure.