By Robert McHugh, product manager
If you’ve ever had your wallet or purse stolen, your first thought probably isn’t about the lost cash or the value of the wallet itself. Your biggest concern is about what the thief will do with the information in your wallet – credit cards, ATM cards, etc. – and how you can stop them right away.
Similarly, if your laptop is stolen you could be concerned about the cost of the computer and what files haven’t been backed up recently. But what about your personal information on your hard drive? Do you have any bank records, account information, or passwords saved on your laptop? What’s in your email that you wouldn’t want the thief to access? How do you protect this?
There are some simple steps you can take to keep your laptop AND your data secure:
Be inconspicuous. Not long ago, laptop carrying bags were clearly used for one purpose – to carry a laptop – screaming to potential thieves that there’s a valuable computer inside. Now, more and more laptop owners are choosing inconspicuous backpacks and multi-purpose carrying cases to tote their computers more discreetly. As the New York Times recently reported, some users are taking this clandestine carrying theme even further with a bag disguised as a newspaper.
Keep it out of sight. Just as you wouldn’t leave your wallet or iPod sitting exposed in the backseat of your parked car, take the extra precaution to hide your laptop computer. Take it with you if you can, or lock it in your trunk.
Sticker it. If you own a popular model, add some labels or stickers to distinguish your computer. This will help avoid confusion at your local Starbuck’s or at airport security; plus it will be easy to see if someone is walking off with your machine.
Backup and Encrypt your data. This won’t prevent a theft, but it will protect you if that someone gets their hands on your laptop. If you haven’t gotten around to backing up your machine, stop reading right now and back it up!. Encrypting your data ensures that no one but you can access your personal confidential information. Windows password protection won’t stop a thief from getting at your data. Only full encryption of your hard drive will hide everything, including hidden files and deleted items that may contain valuable information.
Laptop thefts have been growing each year as more and more users are going mobile. According to a study by Safeware Insurance Agency, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, and only 3% of these are ever returned. Be informed and be prepared so you won’t be part of the statistics.