written by: Finn Orfano•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 1/11/2011
How to keep your laptop from being stolen while you're at the airport.
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It's bad enough that TSA agents are strip searching children and feeling up grandmothers, but all that added security still doesn't make airports any safer for laptop owners. With long flight delays that leave people tired and vulnerable, it's not uncommon for things to get stolen. Laptops are an especially easy target thanks to their high value, easy portability, and the fact that they are often carried in distinctive bags for thieves to grab and go. In this article, we'll go over some laptop airport security tips to help keep you from being robbed.
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Install Laptop Tracking Software
While it won't necessarily prevent your laptop from being stolen, a laptop tracking device will help to get your computer back in case it goes missing. What you do is install a piece of software that uses the Internet to report its location and basically 'check in' from time to time. If you report it missing, the updates come more often and allow you to better pinpoint its location. Both Windows and Mac users can get a program called LoJack that will let you track your computer. For more information, check the LoJack website or another utility called zTrace.
Laptop tracking software doesn't guarantee that you will get your computer back because it requires that the computer be turned on. The thief could very well take your laptop straight to a pawn shop or sell it on the street, and the next owner may be smart enough to wipe the hard drive or even it strip it for parts. Even so, every little bit of protection helps. Don't think that just because somebody is sneaking around airports and stealing laptops doesn't mean they don't know anything about computers.
(Image credit: Absolute Software - LoJack for Laptops)
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Use Password Protection
Depending on the technical knowledge of the thief, a password could be all you need to prevent someone from getting into your personal files. Many laptop owners automatically save their login info for websites like Google Mail, online banking, and so on. We all know it's a bother to remember all those passwords, but if someone were to get your computer they wouldn't even have to try guessing your password since you'd already have it saved for them. Now you not only lost your computer, but your bank account may be drained and your identity is up for grabs. Scary, isn't it?
Even if you are the only person that uses your laptop, it never hurts to add a password to your login. Someone could still take the hard drive out of the laptop and put it in another machine to get at the files, but for a basic barrier to entry it will help. Once you do establish a password, please don't write it on a piece of paper and stick it to the top of the screen. You can even password protect folders for added security. Be sure to read our article on how to create strong passwords.
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General Security Tips
In addition to the more technically specific suggestions, there are some general laptop airport security tips you should follow. These may seem like fairly obvious things, but often we get so busy in the chaos of finding terminals and hauling luggage that these basic security procedures might slip our minds.
Don't let the laptop out of your sight. Ever.
Don't let a stranger borrow it.
Don't do anything sensitive like online banking while around a crowd of people. You never know who might look over your shoulder.
Don't put your laptop in your luggage and try to sandwich it between layers of clothes. Have you seen the way baggage handlers toss around people's luggage? Your computer will likely get damaged.