By: Linda Marklund
Hundreds of thousands of laptops are lost or stolen each year. What if it happened to you? Think about all the valuable information stored in your laptop and the chaos that would enter your life should it become lost or stolen. Hours and hours of hard work on that special project—gone. Volumes of resource materials you collected for months, years—gone. All the photos you unloaded from your camera and never got around to editing and printing—gone. Most important, your personal information, your credit cards and bank statements—you shudder to think about it. Laptop security should be every owner’s high priority. Not just protection from physical loss, but from the internal infestation of spyware, viruses, hackers and spammers. Your security needs to be maintained and updated. Don’t take for granted that the security purchased with your laptop is sufficient. It may have been a three-month free trial subscription that you forgot to renew. Better check. Treat your laptop as you would your wallet, your purse, your fine jewelry. Protect it as you would your child. Here are some important steps for protecting your laptop.
- Make sure your OS (Operating System) is secure.
- Password protect your data.
- Send in your manufacturer’s registration. If your stolen laptop is ever sent in for maintenance or repair, it can be traced through your registration.
- Turn on your popup blocker. On the Internet, go to Tools/Internet Options. Click on the Privacy tab and check the box that says Block popups.
- Install Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus software, and keep it up to date.
- Pay attention to Windows Updates and take the time to install them. A few minutes is all it takes. It’s so easy to click “remind me later,” but even if you have to restart your computer, it’s time well spent.
Simple Security Measures to Protect Your Laptop:
- Carry your laptop in an inconspicuous bag. A fancy designer case appears to have “steal me” written all over it.
- Never leave it unattended, not even for a minute.
- Store it in a locked drawer when not in use.
- Label it. Use conspicuous identity labels that would be difficult for a thief to remove. Engrave your name on the cover.
Internal Security–Protect Your Data:
Set the BIOS password. This is the first thing that appears when the machine is turned on. Most computers refuse to boot if the password attempt fails three times.
Set the Log In Password. Most systems require a log in password. If the password entered is incorrect, the system will refuse the user. Password protection is not 100% secure, but it certainly presents a difficult challenge to a thief.
Sensors: There are some very sophisticated sensors that can be purchased for added protection, such as a fingerprint sensor, or a gesture sensor. Your password could be a sequential pattern of movements of your head from sided to side, up or down. There are also alarm sensors that sound if someone touches your laptop when you are out of range. Additionally, there are fingerprint sensors, retinal sensors, or even your typing characteristics can be recorded for authentication. Sensors are fairly new and not yet a standard feature on laptops.
Tracking Devices: You can now buy software that enables your laptop to “check in” to a tracking center by using a signal. The tracking center service works with police departments and internet service providers to track and recover stolen laptops.
Personal Firewall: Install this extra layer of protection not only to prevent intruders from hacking into your system, but also prevent your information from leaking out.
NTFS: If you have Windows 10, use the NTFS filing system. NTFS stands for NT Filing System.
Disable the Guest Account, or at least assign it a very complex, hard-to-guess password.
Rename the Administrator Account. Don’t use the word Admin in the name. A different name will make it harder for hackers to open the door. You could also create a “dummy” administrator account. Assign it a complex password, too hard to guess, and restrict all privileges. Then enable “auditing” so that you can tell if access has been attempted.
Disable the “Last Logged-In” user namusernameill help prevent hackers from password guessing. You can find the instructions to do this on the installation CD for your laptop.
Encrypt your folders. Use EFS (Encrypting Filing System). When a folder is encrypted, any file stored in that folder is also encrypted. Encryption takes long to do and it also might slow the performance speed of your laptop, so you might choose to encrypt only the most sensitive files in your laptop.
Disable the Infrared Port. The port is for transmitting data and is not the method routinely chosen by most users. But did you know that someone sitting across the room from you could actually browse your files via the infrared port without you even knowing it? You can disable the port in the BIOS, or simply cover it with a piece of black electrical tape.
Back up your data before you travel. If some unfortunate circumstance occurs, your data can be retrieved by you. You could store all your data on a disk (encrypted and password protected, of course) and travel with an “empty” laptop. Remember to keep the disks on you and not in your laptop case! And watch out for metal detectors at the airports. Alternatively, you could send ahead your disks and retrieve them when you arrive at your destination.
External Laptop Security:
Cable Lock. You never know when it becomes necessary to leave your laptop unattended if even for a minute or two. Get a cable lock and use it. Make sure you tether it to something very sturdy and immovable.
Docking Station: At your office, many people you don’t know may pass through. You never know which stranger might want your laptop. A docking station can be permanently fixed to your desktop and it locks the laptop in place. If you can’t have a docking station, get into the habit of locking it in a drawer when not in use or when you have to leave the work station. You wouldn’t leave your wallet on your desk when you leave, would you?
Airports are a prime location for thieves to snatch your belongings in seconds. Obviously, never leave them unattended. Carry-on, never check your laptop. There’s a risk of it getting lost in the airport luggage system. How can you secure your data while traveling? One company in particular, Absolute Software, a Canadian-based company, has developed software that can trace a lost or stolen laptop and even delete the data with a remote device. Another company in Colorado, Otter Products, makes durable carrying cases that are crushproof, water resistant, drop-resistant and securely locked for traveling.
In summary, you could virtually turn your laptop into a mini Fort Knox if you took advantage of all the security options available. But I hope this article has instilled enough paranoia in you to incite you into taking necessary precautions to insure the security of your laptop and subsequently your private life! Taking heed to simple security measures on a regular basis will become as habitual as putting on your seatbelt when you get into the car. When security measures are in place, you can then lighten up and go about your day worry-free.