Think Like a Thief and Protect Your Laptop While Traveling
How Can I Make Sure My Laptop Is Secure While I Travel with It?
According to Safeware, Inc., a laptop is stolen every 12 seconds worldwide. The most common places for laptops to be taken from parked cars, hotels, and airports – approximately 12,000 laptops are stolen or go missing at US airports each week. The majority of stolen laptops are never recovered and can cost laptop owners and businesses millions of dollars each year in hardware, software, and the loss of valuable information.
- Why Why are you bringing your laptop, are there other alternatives? Could you do your work in an internet cafe and save your work on a USB or hard drive?
- Use a reliable and padded case to transport your laptop. Regardless of your method of travel, you will need something to protect the laptop from movement and harm during transport. Use a case that can be carried as you would carry a briefcase, or a shoulder bag that is made well and provides padding and cushion.
- Keep your laptop with you while traveling. Do not leave your computer unattended in airports, train stations, or bus terminals. If you are traveling by car, be sure to keep it out of sight when you get out of the car for gas, food, and bathroom breaks. Take it into hotels with you overnight. If you are in a crowd keep you bag on your front. If you want to travel light it is best that you leave less valuable bulky luggage in storage.
- Humidity and heat. In hot countries heat and humidity can cause problems for your laptop.
- Voltage stabilizer. In some countries like India it is important you have a voltage stabilizer.
- Place your laptop on the security belt at the airport right before you walk through the metal detector. You will want to be able to pick it up off the conveyor belt immediately after it goes through the x-ray.
- Check your laptop before you leave to make sure all of your security software is up to date. Be sure your firewall is in place, and ensure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware applications running.
- Limit the amount of personal information you transmit on unfamiliar networks. When you travel, try not to transmit credit card information, or personal identification such as social security numbers or birth dates.
The US Federal Trade Commission suggests that people should treat their laptops like a wad of cash. You would not stuff the wad of cash in your checked luggage, wave it around the airport, leave it in the backseat of a parked car, or sitting on your hotel room nightstand; so, your laptop should be given the same respect. While traveling, especially at the airport, it’s imperative to keep your laptop in your possession and within your view at all times. Thieves are very smart and are constantly looking for distracted travelers; they only need you to let your guard down or turn your back for a second in order for them to get their hands on your laptop. While you are going through the security checkpoint, things can get a little hectic and this is the perfect opportunity for thieves to take advantage of your disarray. At this point, do not let other travelers make you feel rusched; it’s better to take your time to make sure you have all your belongings and put them safely away. If you have a carrying case, make sure to close and lock it. If you have to go to the restroom, always take your laptop with you.
There are also a few security features you can attach directly to your laptop, eg a security cable or alarm. Both work in similar fashions and extremely try to prevent the thief from physically taking the laptop via a lock or alarm of some sort. Another option is to install a fingerprint scanner, which replaces your username and password. There is also software you can purchase and install that will lock your laptop, encrypt data, track the laptop if the thief goes online, and more. A simple internet search for any of these products will provide all sorts of options.
If your laptop is unfortunately stolen, now is not the time to be embarrassed! Be sure to contact the police and provide as much information as possible. They will be able to help guide you as to what steps to take next. You will also need to contact your insurance company and your manager or IT Department if the laptop was company-owned. Finally, if there is even the slightest chance of identity theft, change all your passwords and contact your bank and credit card companies immediately.
If you are a frequent traveler, you need to make it as difficult as possible for a thief to steal your laptop. They are looking for unsuspecting travelers and easy access. But in the end, laptop theft is 100% preventable. Never let your laptop out of your sight, even for a minute. Like the thief, always be aware of your surroundings. If someone seems suspicious, notify security and get away from them; if something does not look or feel right, it probably is not!
Have you had your laptop stolen? Share your experience with us in hopes of preventing it from happening to someone else.