How to Keep Your Laptop Safe When Traveling - dummies

How to Keep Your Laptop Safe When Traveling

By Corey Sandler

Part of Laptops All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Security is paramount when traveling with a laptop. Your notebook’s hardware and software both need protecting when you’re on the road. Start with physical laptop protection and then move onto software.

  • Buy a sturdy bag to hold your computer. Make sure it has sturdy zippers and clasps, and shun labels. The bag shouldn’t advertise for the computer manufacturer.

  • Put ID tags on hooks and straps of the bag. Use internal pockets for more ID. Put your only name, phone number, and e-mail address on the tags. Add the phrase “Reward for Return” to the ID tags.

  • Take up a company on its offer to track tags in your laptop. If someone finds your machine and contacts the ID company, they serve as an intermediary to arrange the return without revealing your name and address.

  • Keep passwords elsewhere. Don’t include in your laptop case a notebook with all of your user IDs, passwords, account numbers, Social Security number, and the combination for your locker at the health club.

  • Strategize for separation. Think about your strategies for times you and your laptop case may be briefly separated. Hold onto your laptop when you’re in a taxi; when you’re traveling on an airline, put it on the floor under the seat in front of you.

  • Hide it. Never leave a laptop in plain sight in a car. Move it to the trunk — if you’re sure no one’s watching you — or hide it beneath a seat.

  • Vault it. In a hotel, see if the in-room safe is large enough to hold your laptop.

  • Keep your eye on the X-ray. Send items through the X-ray machine in reverse order of their value: shoes, books and papers, the laptop-less case, jacket (with keys and wallet zipped inside), and lastly, your laptop.

  • Set up a firewall. Sveral types are available:

    • Application gateway firewalls (also known as a proxy)

    • Packet filters

    • Circuit-level firewalls

    • Stateful inspection firewalls

  • Install antivirus, antispam, and antispyware programs.

  • Avoid jolting or tilting your laptop while its hard disk drive is running.

  • Maintain your system.

    • Examine your laptop’s installed hardware and software.

    • Use an automated hard disk error-checking utility.

    • Clean the drive.

    • Defragment the drive.

  • Lock the hardware. Nearly all current laptops have a hardened slot at the back to work with special cables and locks that you can attach to a desk, pipe, or other fixed object.

  • Create and use a strong password.

    • Use numbers and letters.

    • Make it meaningful.

    • Be unpredictable. (If you want to include the word Spoon in your password, try replacing one or both of the letters o with a zero.)

    • Be fickle. Change your passwords every few months.

  • Encrypt your disks. Encryption blocks access to Windows, makes all files on the drive unreadable, or both. PGP Whole Disk Encryption and TrueCrypt are sources for this technology.

  • *Back up your data to a form of removable media. Keep the backup in a safe place, separate and apart from the laptop.