Five Simple Tips to Protect Your Laptop This Holiday Season

Paul Mah
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Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Laptop

Planning on doing some traveling this holiday season, or heading out of town early to visit with family and loved ones? If you intend to bring your laptop along - be it for work or for fun - you may first want to check out the tips that I've put together to help you better protect your laptop and the precious data on it.


Get a Kensington Laptop Lock


One evergreen suggestion to protect a laptop is to secure it by its Kensington slot using a laptop lock. The common refrain against using a laptop lock is the not-illogical belief that a sufficiently larger wire cutter will always prevail. When I spoke to Rob Humphrey, director of security products at Kensington Technology last year, however, he told me that any arguments about laptop locks not being effective is really a misconception.


"Thieves are likely to pass a locked laptop since the locking mechanism takes (more) time to defeat," said Humphrey at that time. He noted how there are "plenty of situations" where the presence of a lock would create a 5-minute deterrent that could be sufficient to put off opportune thievery. "It (the lock) is not a foolproof method for security, just a deterrent."


Encrypt Your Data


One way to significantly increase one's protection against data leakage is to make use of data encryption. This can be trivially done today using open-source encryption software such as TrueCrypt, or using the BitLocker full disk encryption (FDE) capability found in Windows Vista and Windows 7. While a disk volume protected by FDE will be slightly slower than an unencrypted one, I personally have not noticed any degradation with BitLocker enabled on my laptop. As reported on ExtremeTech, a study on the impact of FDE has highlighted how even intelligence agencies are having problems with breaking into data protected by encrypted data volumes; properly configured, there is absolutely no way that your small-time crook will succeed in violating the data from a stolen laptop.


Password-Protect Your Account


Encrypting a data volume is of no use if the laptop is not also password-protected. If you've not done so yet, ensure that you set a fairly difficult password for your user account and disable automatic login. When implemented in tandem with FDE, a password-protected account guarantees the continued sanctity of your personal data.


Set a Screensaver with Prompt for Password


One way to twist the screws of security even tighter is to configure the Windows screensaver to activate with a corresponding activation timeout. This additional precaution will go a long way towards ensuring that the data on your laptop is protected even if it is stolen at the most inopportune moments.


Consider Using a Cloud-sync Service


Beyond the pain of losing an expensive laptop, the irretrievable loss of important work files can also be a pretty painful experience. The easiest way to prevent the latter from happening is to ensure that work files are regularly backed up. An alternative that I personally use is to deploy an appropriate synchronization tool to automatically sync changes in real time to a cloud-based service.

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