Five Tips for Securing Your Laptop While Traveling

Exterior of a popular corner cafe.

Photo © Daniel Martone.

A few weeks ago, I passed along a few tips for protecting your electronic gadgets from airport security equipment. In particular, I was concerned with the loss of data on image storage cards, digital cameras, smartphones, and laptops.

Well, inspired by my colleague Christopher Baker‘s recent post about being safe in Costa Rica (in regards to the security of your person as well as your possessions), I thought I’d go a bit further with the issue of protecting your laptop while traveling. After all, most of us routinely travel with our laptops, making them a popular target for thieves-on-the-go. In fact, according to the personal technology experts at Support.com (800/727-8776) – a provider of technology services and software products for consumers and small businesses – 10 percent of all laptops in circulation get stolen, meaning that a laptop is taken every 53 seconds. If that’s true, then it’s probably a good time to consider the following five steps for making your laptop more secure while traveling:

    • Avoid Using a Typical Computer Bag: Almost 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen in U.S. airports each week. To make your laptop less of a target, skip a typical laptop bag and instead try carrying your laptop in a padded briefcase, suitcase, or backpack.
    • Be Careful When Using Free Wi-Fi: Many public wireless networks are relatively unsecure, and all users should be extra careful before connecting their laptop to a free network. If you must connect to a free network, here are six steps to connect to a wireless network safely. Instead of accessing a free network, you may be able to use an Internet USB dongle, or some providers like T-Mobile offer mobile hotspot services that let you access the Internet on your laptop with your mobile device.
    • Install a Security/Anti-Theft Program: Install a security program that allows you to track/recover your laptop if lost or stolen. A well-known program is LoJack for Laptops.
    • Back up Important Data Before Traveling: Back up your data before you travel; it will be there if your laptop gets stolen! For those who travel a lot, consider an online data backup service that offers 24/7 access to all your files.
    • Encrypt Your Data: Encrypting data on your laptop ensures that it can be accessed or read only by you – a good idea if it falls into the wrong hands!

Obviously, such advice can be useful for both domestic and international travelers. Perhaps it also goes without saying that you should never leave your laptop unattended in hotel rooms or rental cars; however, if you must leave it behind, you should at least secure it with the help of items like Pacsafe protectors (as Chris suggests in his above-mentioned post). So, do you have any additional tips for securing your laptop while traveling?

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