It’s not always possible to avoid theft, especially when it comes to laptops, netbooks, and tablets. If the safe in your hotel was too small or the reception desk was too far away or you simply had all eyes and ears on the person you were talking to in the café, it may already be too late. And just like that, your laptop is gone! Going to the police will often frustratingly be of little help, and your laptop will be lost forever.
However, your personal data is much more important than the hardware. Whether you have backups or not, no unauthorized person should ever get their hands on your private photos, important documents or business e-mails. The same applies to saved login details for payment services, social networks or online shops.
Here are our tips on how to effectively protect your laptop data from being stolen
- Secure your OS using a password
Passwords are often disabled for the sake of convenience. They do provide a small hurdle for thieves though, by keeping unauthorized people from accessing your data at least in the short term. You can set a password at any time using the Windows Control Panel section “User accounts”. The password should be as long as possible and also contain numbers and upper-case letters. However, if someone is really keen on getting their hands on not only the hardware but your data as well, they will stop at nothing. After all, simply reinstalling the OS is sufficient to gain access to any unencrypted content on your hard drive.
- Use an Anti-Malware solution
While most people use some kind of Anti-Malware such as a virus checker or firewall, they don’t seem to realize that having a weak anti-malware program is almost as bad as having no anti-malware. Most anti-virus programs cannot block 0-day viruses, trojans, and rootkits because they rely on signatures of malware. These signatures may take upto 1 week to be added to your anti-virus program. In most cases, this means you are unprotected, unless you use a program which watches for types of activity, rather then signatures. Avast, AVG, McAfee, Norton – these are all anti-virus programs which rely on signatures. Emsisoft (which we recommend) uses file signatures, but also watches what programs do, rather then what they look like, creating a 0-day barrier for your data.
- Encrypt your hard drive
If your hard drive is encrypted with a highly secure encryption method, only those who know the password will be able to gain access to its content. You do not even have to encrypt the entire hard drive, just the files, folders or partitions that contain your sensitive information.
- Back-up regularly
Not only is it important to prevent others from getting their hands on certain files, but also to prevent your data from being lost to you forever in the event that your notebook is stolen. We therefore recommend that you backup your data to a secure location, such as storage at home or in the cloud (Dropbox/Google Drive/etc).
- Use a tracking service
There are a few programs and services around that enable you to track hardware that has gone missing. The odds may not be especially high, but this may be a worthwhile investment for expensive laptops or business devices in particular.
- For modern laptops with Intel CPU: Use Anti-Theft Technology (AT-p)
Intel® Anti-Theft Technology enables locking of a laptop even before booting. Even exchanging the hard drive is ineffective at bypassing this protection mechanism, so the hardware is basically worthless to the thief.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
While this won’t prevent you from losing your laptop, it will prevent someone from accessing your information which is normally sent unprotected and unencrypted when using a WiFi Hotspot or Open Network. We recommend using Hide My Ass! VPN software. If you use a Mac, you can use Strong VPN instead.
- Use a Password Encryption program
While it’s often easier to use the same password over and over, or to use a password file, either of these situations can lead to very dangerous conditions. If you lose your laptop and someone does get access to your hard drive, unencrypted login information can lead to access to your banking information, social networks, or sensitive websites. RoboForm and LastPass are password encryption softwares that can keep your passwords safe and secure online from multiple devices and platforms. KeePass can also be used offline. Each of them can also suggest new secure passwords which do not duplicate other passwords, enabling you to have a secure browsing experience.