Laptops aren’t just a useful form of technology anymore, for a lot of us they contain our life’s work and keep our lives in order. Phones and tablets have come a long way, but for those of us who work on our laptops, they are probably still the preferred method of working and storing your important documents and projects.
Because of our reliance on technology, it is little wonder that we are worried about the safety of our laptops while travelling. Many of us have heard horror stories about things being lost or stolen while travelling, and in some parts of the world, this is much more likely.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to keep your laptop safe, both in terms of keeping it digitally safe from viruses and other software threats and keeping it physically protected from being swiped or lost while you’re out of your hotel room.
Keep Your Laptop Safe – Physical Protection
1. A Secure and Protective Case
The number of times I see laptops worth thousands in bags and cases that cost $5 is worrying. If your laptop is important to you, a padded bag that keeps your laptop securely in the right place is vital. Even if you are confident of your laptop not being stolen, if you are getting in and out of taxis, walking around and using carry-on luggage to transport your laptop, you never know when turbulence or a problem on the road is going to send your bags (and other peoples’ bags) flying.
Hard drives are fragile and taking risks is not advised. The right case or bag can also do wonders in terms of preventing your bag from being stolen. While combination locks and padlocks won’t stop hardcore criminals, they will put off petty opportunist criminals.
Features have come a long way. Manufacturers are offering bags with zips that prevent tampering and even slash-proof materials to stop knives from getting through the fabric. This will, at the very least, be a deterrent to keep your laptop safe.
2. Combination Locks
This is always recommended. Combination locks won’t solve all your problems. Some criminals will not be put off by them, but the extra level of protection can mean that people are likely to look elsewhere for an opportunity to steal a laptop.
Combination locks also send off the right message, that you have thought about the safety of your laptop. This also tells potential thieves that you are likely to have similar protection on your software and that your laptop may even be useless once they have stolen it.
3. Do Not Disturb Signs
We want to be able to go out and about and not have to take laptops with us, they’re a burden if you are going out for a meal, even if you put them in a backpack. Whilst most hotel staff are perfectly trustworthy, the more eyeballs to see your laptop, the more likely a theft becomes. Take your do not disturb sign off when you have taken the laptop with you, or when you are in and don’t mind having visitors.
4. Use a Safe
If your hotel has security safes in each room then you may be able to pay for the key or combination and keep your laptop in there. Every hotel is different and some may even have a safe reserved for high-value items behind reception. A safe which is manned 24 hours is the ideal scenario and it is worth checking if this is something that can be offered.
5. Don’t Make it Obvious
Carrying a laptop bag with Apple stickers all over it? Thieves will know what is inside! Not all laptops are created equal and giving off the hallmarks of having an expensive model is just advertising the loot on offer. Be discreet.
I know, insurance doesn’t mean you get to keep your laptop, but if you get a good, comprehensive insurance policy which means a replacement will be simple enough should the worst happen can help. Combine this with storing your data in the cloud or on hard drives in multiple locations and peace of mind can be much easier to come by. If your laptop has irreplaceable files on it then this needs to be addressed first, leading me to the next point…
7. Extended an International Warranty
I had to find out the hard way that even though I bought my Dell laptop at Heathrow airport Duty-free that it only came with local one year UK insurance not even provided by Dell. This was when my laptop broke down in Vietnam. No one could repair it. Out of desperation, I had to buy a new laptop. I gave the broken Dell to a friend that was returning to the UK to get it repaired under warranty just within the warranty period.
I learned two things here, this first one go for an extended and international warranty. Second, if you travel in Asia a lot there are two brands that can get repaired easily: Apple and Lenovo.
8. Keep it Backed Up
Depending on what you use your laptop for this can either be complicated or super easy. If you do all your work on a server or store all of your files remotely, it may not be an issue. Lots of us simply have some photographs that we would hate to lose. You can simply put these on an external hard drive, or even burn them to a couple of DVDs or memory sticks before you go, this way you don’t need to worry.
Larger projects are where it becomes more difficult, if you are a video editor or music producer and have a lot of large files, external drives are recommended for your backups.
Having backed-up all of your data, the risk of losing your laptop is the same, but the risk of losing data, work and memories that can’t be replaced has totally gone.
Keep Your Laptop Safe – Software Security
9. Antivirus and VPNs
Travelling means using new networks that you haven’t before and this brings with it certain risks. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to attacks, having antivirus and even using a VPN can help eliminate a lot of the risks attached to public networks.
On top of this, VPNs can allow you to access things you may not be able to ordinarily. For instance, you may still be able to access your Netflix even if it is restricted by country.
Even having done all of this, it is recommended that, if you can avoid it, you don’t access high-security information such as your bank accounts. That way you will have peace of mind that nobody has managed to track your login.
10. Track Your Computer
If you have a mac, “Find My Mac” is a feature that will let you log in and see its location should you lose your mac. This can help with any investigation or if it has simply been misplaced. If you have a PC, there are various pieces of software that can do the same job. It may not be that you are looking to confront any thieves, but being able to at least know your laptop’s whereabouts can help you find out what has happened to it.
11. Secure Passwords
I can’t believe it is still necessary to put this on the list, but it is! Having passwords for internet banking and even to get into your laptop that are simply ‘password1’ or ‘1234’ are not going to cut it. Some more tech-savvy criminals can even run programmes to try thousands of passwords, so having something unique and complicated is essential.
I use a tool to manage my passwords on my mobile as well as my laptop called LastPass. To make it more secure I set it up with two-factor authentication using Google Authenticator, there are others like Microsoft Authenticator and Authy.
It is best to be prepared for the worst. If you are super worried about it, having everything backed up is the only way to know you won’t lose your data. Many of the methods we’ve mentioned are as much designed to put off potential thieves as they are to protect your laptop. There is always the chance of the worst happening, the key is to be prepared to keep your laptop safe.