Millions of laptops are stolen from travelers each year. (OK, I made that up, but it does happen a lot.) Or at least that’s what the notebook security companies want you to believe! (Actually, no, notebooks do get stolen quite often from people traveling.)
People are going to swipe laptops no matter what, but there are a handful of steps you can take (and products you can buy!) to encourage ne’er-do-wells to lift some other sucker’s property instead of yours.
The fact is, more and more notebooks are being taken not for the value of the hardware, but the contents of the hard drive. So for starters, take advantage of what security options your OS offers you. FileVault on Mac OS X, for example, lets you encrypt everything on your hard drive and set up a master password for permission to view it. (You can set it up under System Preferences > Security). Windows XP and Vista let you encrypt individual files and folders. All you need to do is right click what you want encrypted, select Properties, then the General tab, Advanced and check the “Encrypt contents to secure data” box. It likely won’t stop hard-core cyber thieves from getting at your data, but it’s something, and something is better than nothing.
If you walk around with the credit histories of your friends and family, you’ll likely want to go a step further with the encryption with something like Steganos Safe 2007 ($49.95). It’s loaded with encryption options and even lets you turn a USB thumb drive or your iPod into a key for unlocking your drive.
Next, tag your tech. This goes for every mobile device you have, not just your laptop. Even if you’re one of those people not planning on having your stuff stolen, you should consider tagging your merchandise in case you leave it in a cab or at a restaurant. Check out options such as StuffBak and DataDot. Plus, products like these generally force you to write down your notebook’s model and serial numbers. At the very least, leave a label with some contact info inside the battery compartment.
Finally, install tracking software like Absolute Software’s Lojack for Laptops or CyberAngel Security. That way, if your notebook is stolen, there’s a very good chance it can be recovered.
Also, if you’re walking around with really sensitive files, consider using TrendMicro’s TrendSecure Remote File Lock software. It lets you remotely lock down any files located within a specific folder on your laptop.
Now for the common sense stuff:
This article is part of our series on Travel For Geeks.