Professionals are traveling outside of the office more and more these days and they are taking their laptops with them. Whether working at another location, visiting a client or simply having lunch at a local cafe, one thing that is often overlooked is laptop security. If it's your personal laptop, a work laptop, or even a laptop rental, chances are it's loaded with files that are important to your life and your business. Whether you are looking to prevent a snoop from gathering your personal information or preventing a thief from taking your entire laptop, there are several good measures everyone should take and a few good habits you should develop.
Starting with the basics that every laptop owner should know, if you're worried about being hacked or robbed while visiting a public Wi-Fi spot, you are right to be paranoid. There are so many different ways criminals can get into your system these days; one of the first things you can do is turn on your firewall. By turning on your firewall, you block unwanted intruders whenever you are in a public place. This is such a simple way to keep yourself secure and everyone should know how to do it. If you are a PC user, simply click on Windows Firewall. If you are using a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Security, and find the Firewall tab.
Another important thing that everyone can do is password protect or unshare your shared folders. Folders of documents and photos that you may want to share with other computers on your home network, might not be something you want everyone on a public network to have access to. Fixing this is simple. See to it that your folders are password protected when you are in public or better yet, turn off any sort of sharing you have enabled on your laptop.
Other ways to protect yourself involve what you do when you visit various websites. Whenever you're visiting a website, use a secure connection if it's an option. This means using "https://" instead of "http://." This option is usually available when checking your email on the web (Gmail and Yahoo Mail for example) or using any type of personal calendar program. Several other site have the option, as well. Another tip is to don't save your passwords in your browsers. Sure, it makes life a lot easier, but if your computer gets into the wrong hands - whether it be a thief or even a co-worker, they will be able to see everything you may not want them to see.
Of course there are several more obvious options. Most people are aware that anti-virus and malware software and programs are an important part computer ownership. And it's important to keep a back-up of all your important data. Whether your computer is stolen or you just spill your coffee, having all of your important files backed up can save you time and agony. If you have to leave your laptop unattended for any reason, a laptop lock is inexpensive and will keep your computer stuck to any table or desk.
If these tips don't ease your mind, there are always a few extra precautions for the tech-savvy. With a number of tools, you can encrypt your hard drive or just a few files which essentially means scrambling it up so it's unreadable to anyone who does not have access via a master password. To do this on a Mac, you can do this by creating an encrypted disk by using the disk utility application. Windows Vista and 7 also offer a data encryption application. There are also a number of free programs such as TrueCrypt that serve the same purpose.
Securing your network with an SSH tunnel is also an option, but again, this is usually reserved for the most tech-savvy of laptop owners. An SSH tunnel is a secure connection to an outside computer to connect to the internet. An outsider trying to break in would think you are sending encrypted information to a single destination when in reality, you're using a trusted remote server as a proxy.