Laptops these days contain the same sensitive information as a desktop: passwords, photos, video, financial data, emails and a lot more. All laptops are normally protected by a log-in prompt which most people thinks offers decent protection. It doesn’t. In the last few years the media has reported on hundreds of laptop thefts and the UK Information Commissioner can hand out fines where protection was poor.
Use full disc encryption
Full disc encryption encrypts all data and adds a strong bubble of protection. The UK Data Protection Act makes full disc encryption pretty much mandatory.
Watch your shoulder
Shoulder surfing is simply when someone looks over your shoulder to see what you are typing. This could happen anywhere but most often on planes, trains or other public spaces. If you are concerned, a laptop privacy filter might help.
When leaving your desk it’s always a good idea to press Control-Alt-Delete. This will lock the screen and stop people viewing what you were doing or modifying any of your files. The same applies to a desktop computer.
Use a lock
A laptop lock may not stop large bolt cutters but it's a 'put off' and a potential thief may target a less secure laptop instead.
Don’t use a laptop bag
Laptop bags scream out “I’m an expensive laptop, please steal me”. Instead of using an obvious laptop bag consider a laptop backpack.
Take a note of the serial number
If stolen, having your laptop's serial number can help police track it and also prove to an insurance company that the laptop is yours.
Tracking greatly increases the chance of getting a laptop back. It can also 'grab' images of the theft, trigger an alarm or even lock the laptop.
Be wary of public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are usually unencrypted which means that your data whizzes around in plain view and someone with the right kit and skills could view your emails and passwords. Other problems include rogue Wi-Fi hotspots which are set up simply to log data. A paid VPN service is a good idea since it encrypts your connection.
Put it in the car boot
If you need to leave a laptop in a car, leave it in the car boot (trunk). Putting it in plain view is just asking for trouble.
Use a safe
When staying at a hotel, use the in-room safe or the safe at reception.
Don’t leave it on the floor
It only takes a second for a thief to snatch a laptop. Put it between your legs or put a foot through the strap to make it harder to steal.
Don't leave your laptop unattended
Do not leave it out of your sight even for a second, even in what you consider to be a 'safe' location. Always take it with you or lock it.
Do not be distracted
Many scams involve two people – one person might ask for directions while the other grabs your laptop from behind.
Erase your data
When you come to sell, throw away or donate the laptop, be sure to securely erase all data – and a simple Windows re-format or operating system reload will not suffice. Either physically destroy the drive or use a software programme that overwrites all data.
Do not attach passwords
This may seem silly but many people do it and allegedly even MI5 was caught out. There is no point of full disc encryption if the password is in the bag!