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Secure your Laptop

Data Security | Why do you need another layer of protection?

Although there are ways to physically protect your laptop, PDA, or other portable device (see Protecting Portable Devices: Physical Security for more information), there is no guarantee that it won't be stolen. After all, as the name suggests, portable devices are designed to be easily transported. The theft itself is, at the very least, frustrating, inconvenient, and unnerving, but the exposure of information on the device could have serious consequences. Also, remember that any devices that are connected to the internet, especially if it is a wireless connection, are also susceptible to network attacks (see Securing Wireless Networks for more information).

What can you do?

  • Use passwords correctly - In the process of getting to the information on your portable device, you probably encounter multiple prompts for passwords. Take advantage of this security. Don't choose options that allow your computer to remember passwords, don't choose passwords that thieves could easily guess, use different passwords for different programs, and take advantage of additional authentication methods (see Choosing and Protecting Passwords and Supplementing Passwords for more information).
  • Consider storing important data separately - There are many forms of storage media, including CDs, DVDs, and removable flash drives (also known as USB drives or thumb drives). By saving your data on removable media and keeping it in a different location (e.g., in your suitcase instead of your laptop bag), you can protect your data even if your laptop is stolen. You should make sure to secure the location where you keep your data to prevent easy access. It may be helpful to carry storage media with other valuables that you keep with you at all times and that you naturally protect, such as a wallet or keys.
  • Encrypt files - By encrypting files, you ensure that unauthorized people can't view data even if they can physically access it. You may also want to consider options for full disk encryption, which prevents a thief from even starting your laptop without a passphrase. When you use encryption, it is important to remember your passwords and passphrases; if you forget or lose them, you may lose your data.
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software - Protect laptops and PDAs from viruses the same way you protect your desktop computer. Make sure to keep your virus definitions up to date (see Understanding Anti-Virus Software for more information). If your anti-virus software doesn't include anti-spyware software, consider installing separate software to protect against that threat (see Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware and Coordinating Virus and Spyware Defense for more information).
  • Install and maintain a firewall - While always important for restricting traffic coming into and leaving your computer, firewalls are especially important if you are traveling and using different networks. Firewalls can help prevent outsiders from gaining unwanted access (see Understanding Firewalls for more information).
  • Back up your data - Make sure to back up any data you have on your computer onto a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or network (see Good Security Habits and Real-World Warnings Keep You Safe Online for more information). Not only will this ensure that you will still have access to the information if your device is stolen, but it could help you identify exactly which information a thief may be able to access. You may be able to take measures to reduce the amount of damage that exposure could cause.
Source | www.us-cert.gov​ Authors | Mindi McDowell and Matt Lytle​

Physical Security | What is at risk?

Only you can determine what is actually at risk. If a thief steals your laptop or mobile device, the most obvious loss is the machine itself. However, if the thief is able to access the information on the computer or mobile device, all of the information stored on the device is at risk, as well as any additional information that could be accessed as a result of the data stored on the device itself. Sensitive corporate information or customer account information should not be accessed by unauthorized people. You've probably heard news stories about organizations panicking because laptops with confidential information on them have been lost or stolen. But even if there isn't any sensitive corporate information on your laptop or mobile device, think of the other information at risk: information about appointments, passwords, email addresses and other contact information, personal information for online accounts, etc.

How can you protect your laptop or internet-enabled device?

  • Password-protect your computer - Make sure that you have to enter a password to log in to your computer or mobile device (see Choosing and Protecting Passwords for more information).
  • Keep your valuables with you at all times - When traveling, keep your device with you. Meal times are optimum times for thieves to check hotel rooms for unattended laptops. If you are attending a conference or trade show, be especially wary—these venues offer thieves a wider selection of devices that are likely to contain sensitive information, and the conference sessions offer more opportunities for thieves to access guest rooms.
  • Downplay your laptop or mobile device - There is no need to advertise to thieves that you have a laptop or mobile device. Avoid using your device in public areas, and consider non-traditional bags for carrying your laptop.
  • Be aware of your surroundings - If you do use your laptop or mobile device in a public area, pay attention to people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from "shoulder surfers"—make sure that no one can see you type your passwords or see any sensitive information on your screen.
  • Consider an alarm or lock - Many companies sell alarms or locks that you can use to protect or secure your laptop. If you travel often or will be in a heavily populated area, you may want to consider investing in an alarm for your laptop bag or a lock to secure your laptop to a piece of furniture.
  • Back up your files - If your mobile device is stolen, it's bad enough that someone else may be able to access your information. To avoid losing all of the information, make backups of important information and store the backups in a separate location (see Good Security Habits for more information). Not only will you still be able to access the information, but you'll be able to identify and report exactly what information is at risk.

What can you do if your laptop or mobile device is lost or stolen?

Report the loss or theft to the appropriate authorities. These parties may include representatives from law enforcement agencies, as well as hotel or conference staff. If your device contained sensitive corporate or customer account information, immediately report the loss or theft to your organization so that they can act quickly.

Source | www.us-cert.gov​ Author | Mindi McDowell​