How to Better Secure Your Laptop
A laptop has been the best way to travel with your whole workstation by your side and to some, it is a vital need to their daily activities. Daily laptop users face greater security risks when traveling and using it from different locations and you don’t need to get your laptop stolen to be at risk. If you ever left your laptop unattended for even just a minute, that would be enough time for a well-seasoned attacker to slip a USB stick and infect you with malware or steal personal information. Additionally, using public Wi-Fi poses the threat of local snoopers sniffing out your unsecured data.
All types of laptop users, be the daily worker, to the globetrotting travelers and casual personal users who browse social networks and email, usually end up logging into several sensitive accounts such as banking and financial accounts. Laptop users taking advantage of mobility become more at risk to have that sensitive data stolen.
Let’s have a look at some basic steps you can take to better secure your laptop, ensuring better safety when you travel, as well as from the office and home.
Add Password Protection
Adding a password to your laptop login is a small and very important step. You can simply add a Windows or OSX password to your account and should be set to be requested on boot up as well as when coming back from the screen saver, sleep more and hibernation. This first line of defense will stop easy access to your laptop by anyone that manages to get their hands on it unsupervised.
You should avoid using obvious passwords such as abc123 or other commonly easily guessed ones. An attacker often uses a list of the most common passwords as quick attempts at gaining access to your machine and to this day, many people use unsecure passwords.
Disable Peripheral Booting – CD-ROM or USB
Many low-level crackers use tools that easily bypass account passwords and while we prefer not to list any of them for obvious reasons, we suggest disabling USB and CD boot options when traveling with your laptop. The attacker runs the software through a disc or USB stick and disabling those boot methods from your BIOS or UEFI will effectively protect from those types of exploits and since those are features you most likely never use, it will have no downside to your usage.
Invest on a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
One of the biggest threats to laptop users is connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot that is shared with other users such as hotels, airports, business meeting locations and such. The data being sent in and out of your internet connection is free to take by any attacker connected to that same Wi-Fi. Using a VPN connection will encrypt all of the data, protecting it from anyone snooping and trying to intercept your account login details, emails and such. Additionally, many of our top rated VPN services offer extra firewall protection and such, blocking hacking attempts on your laptop connection.
Encrypt or Password Protect Files and Hard Drives
Very often, we skip over the fact that you can quickly password protect a sensitive Microsoft Office file and operating systems often allow you to password protect whole folders on your drive. However, we think this is only basic protection from attackers using your laptop while you might be away for a few minutes. However, if someone was to steal your laptop, you would much more benefit from having encrypted your whole drive.
Many tools are available to encrypt your hard drives such as Microsoft’s BitLocker available on Windows 7 and 8 or a popular counterpart open source program would be TrueCrypt which also works on XP, Apple OSX and Linux.
Keep Your Laptop Updated
New vulnerabilities are discovered literally every day and some of those will affect your operating system. Ensuring that you always opt for the latest security updates really helps keep you protected from newly discovered exploits that can be used on your machine on various connection spots you may have to frequent abroad. This is not limited to your operating system, all the software you use will often connect online and present its own set of risks with time. Keeping up to date with your most used software and systems is a good way to stay secure from various security flaws.
Don’t Forget Your Laptop Bag Anywhere
We are all guilty of forgetting something behind at one point or another of our lives and it happens to the best of us at the worst time. Running late to catch a flight is one of those cliché moments where forgetting your laptop can be very unforgiving. It is said that hundreds of thousands of laptops are lost in airports across America every year according to a study conducted over 6 years ago. Nowadays we bet more and more devices being lost fall under the tablet and smartphone category, but overall the point is to have awareness of your belongings at all times, no matter the level of stress or how rushed you are to get to your destination, especially if it’s the boarding terminal.
Leaving your laptop hanging around unattended in a coffee shop or any public space is prone to be spotted by a thief’s eyes. In a moment a passer-by may notice an unattended bag or laptop and enter the location, take it and leave before you get back from the washroom. Having a staff member watch your belongings when leaving for any extended period of time is a good idea.
Use a Laptop Lock
Often overlooked, the physical way of protecting your laptop is to lock it using a specially designed lock mechanism available universally for all laptops. Just as we mentioned, a thief can quickly make out with your belongings, but adding a lock will physically make it impossible for someone to steal it publicly without causing a ruckus to try and pry or cut it loose.
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