When people think of computer security they think of things like Trojan Horses, viruses, spyware, worms and other nasty things that hackers can send to you over the internet. No matter how many blocks you have in place, or how many firewalls you erect, though, there is a type of security that you are probably forgetting when it comes to your laptop.
With huge numbers of people using laptops both at home and at work, and the rising number of people taking their laptops with them on trips to anywhere from the coffee shop down the street to the next continent over, there is an important security issue also on the rise. The theft of laptops is at a record high, and once a thief has your computer safely in his hands, he has all the time in the world to crack the rest of your security or take your computer apart to sell the pieces.
Keeping your laptop safe is not just an issue of internal security and regular checkups (though these things are important), but also of physical security and making sure that your computer does not leave your possession.
Security at Work and School
With the theft of laptops on the rise, the job of protecting them has become big business. If you bring your laptop to work, then it is important to keep it secure at all times. Especially in a busy office with many people coming and going, a two-minute bathroom break can mean the loss of a couple of thousand dollars worth of technology, and a lot of data.
For a laptop on your desk in the busy office place, there are several options for keeping your laptop tied down and in place no matter what. One of these methods is attaching your laptop to a security cable to stop casual theft. These cables can only be released with a key or code, and keep others from lifting your laptop when your back is turned.
If you bring your laptop to work, but do not use it the entire time you are there, if you are a student or parent concerned about others accessing your computer, or if you foresee being away from your desk for a period of time, locking your laptop in a file cabinet or desk drawer can be ideal. If these options are not available, a laptop locker will keep others away from your valuable tool. Mount the laptop locker under your desk, in the trunk of your car, on the wall, or in the closet to prevent theft and unwanted access.
For a laptop that many people may need to use or have access to, and one that is not supposed to go anywhere, ever, then a tie-down bracket is the option to keep your computer safe. Popular with libraries and hotels, these brackets protect your laptop usually whether open or closed, but will not allow the laptop to be removed. These are also good for computers that can be in danger of falling from things such as store displays, car mounts, and laptops on hospital carts.
For schools or companies that provide laptops for special use to many people at once, a lockable laptop cart is idea. The cart provides room for fifteen to thirty laptops at once. These carts are constructed to be both mobile and extremely difficult to break into. When not in use they should be kept in a locked room for additional security, however even if someone gets one of these carts, it will be virtually impossible to conceal.
If despite your best precautions your laptop is lost or stolen, having installed a stealth signal program or other tracking program means that your laptop can call out for help. Report your laptop as lost or stolen, and your computer will begin transmitting its location to a control center. These control centers can then help you retrieve your lost computer, hopefully before any damage is done.
The best security you can offer your computer is keeping your eye on it at all times. If you choose to bring it with you anywhere, do not leave it alone unless it is under lock and key. People are tempted to set their bags on the floor and doze in waiting rooms or airports, but it only takes a second to lose your valuable investment and all of your data.
Security Online and in Networks
Don't think that just because your computer is locked up from theft makes it perfectly safe, either. Information you keep stored on your computer such as bank data, passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information make a tempting target for hackers and identity thieves. The best security for your personal information is to not save it on your computer anywhere, ever.
It may not just be your data that thieves are after, either. Once they have established a connection, they can come back again and again to make use of your fancy processor and your internet connection to attack other computers and hide their own activities. These intruders get in through email viruses and weaknesses in existing programs, and often install programs to keep their access to your computer open. It is hard to tell that your computer has been invaded, but keeping your connection secure is vital.
There are things that everyone should know, and most people don't think about. Do not, for example, open an attachment from someone you don't know. If possible, avoid opening the emails, too. If you do open attachments, make sure they are scanned for a virus first. Infected friends can inadvertently send viruses on to you.
Visiting innocent web sites can also provide entry points into your computer. If you think of the internet as one big room, any program listening can hear your conversation (the data you exchange) and interpret it. Do not think that your computer is talking directly to the computer on the other end of the line. Your conversations/information are relayed through computer after computer until it reaches its destination. Programs can be installed to encrypt the information you send out over the internet to protect you from this mode of invasion.
Password protection is key, as is backing up your work every so often. That way even if you are infected with a dangerous virus, you can possibly format or use another method to wipe it away. Passwords should also be strong, containing letters and numbers, and not your own personal information like birth dates. You should also rotate passwords, not using the same one twice.
Anti-virus programs should be installed and updated frequently. They should also be used to actively scan for viruses on a regular basis to keep your computer or laptop as safe as possible. You should also make sure to keep your system updates with all the latest patches available, since they may help close a back door that an intruder could take advantage of.
A firewall program is not the same as an anti-virus program, but it is just as important. A firewall means that no one gets into your computer without your knowledge or permission. A person or program attempting to access your computer from a remote location will not be allowed through unless you specifically enable them.
There is a lot here to remember, and a lot of information to process. Following the advice outlined here, however, and searching regularly for new security measures and updates will help to protect your computer and all of the information stored on it. Safety, after all, is the key.
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