The annual Endpoint Security Report released by Absolute notes that the top five locations where your laptop could be stolen include your car, your home, school, and the airport. This means you run the risk of laptop theft almost every day. But you can protect your laptop and data from being stolen or damaged by taking a few simple measures.
How Your Data is at Risk
As Privacy Rights reports, the primary ways that your sensitive information could be accessed include:
- Your laptop or hard drive which contain your data are stolen.
- Your laptop becomes infected with a virus or other malware.
- Your laptop is accessed by someone unauthorized and the files are altered.
- Your laptop is hacked and used to attack other computers.
Fully protecting your data requires the following steps, all of which you can do yourself:
Maintain Your Operating System
It’s a pain when you get a pop-up message such as “You have Updates.” Keep your operating system up-to-date with the current patches and releases. Many times, there are security-related updates so you may be leaving yourself vulnerable by not allowing these to happen timely.
Anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewall software is made to prevent tiny programs from getting into your computer and causing problems. These programs can do just about anything destructive that you can think of, from corrupting files and deleting data, to stealing information and even leaving your laptop unusable.
Firewalls block unauthorized files, and people, from entering your computer. Anti-virus software specifically looks for small, unauthorized programs or computer viruses that have made it onto your computer, and isolates them before they cause harm. Anti-malware software looks for and disables programs such as spyware, which collects data and sends it back to a central location.
Microsoft Windows comes with a tool called Defender that detects viruses and spyware. There is also a firewall feature in Windows that you can enable to prevent unauthorized access. Norton and McAfee also sell popular data protection tools, including bundled suites that offer protection from all of the major threats.
Since new viruses show up frequently, all of these tools require refreshing their virus databases so they are aware of new viruses to look for. This is usually done automatically by the product. To continue getting these updates, you will have to renew your license fee, usually once each year. Versions of these software tools often come pre-loaded on a new laptop.
Web Browsing Protection
Always keep your browser current, in addition to your operating system files. Allow your anti-virus and anti-malware programs to scan files you download through your browser, and detect phishing from a website. The software may do this automatically, but you may need to enable that function for it to work.
Encrypting the data on your hard drive means that even if someone did steal or hack into your laptop, they couldn’t readily read your data, notes Tech Radar. The major operating systems have disk encryption built in, but you must enable it. Unless your disk contains government secrets, a thief or hacker will likely pass over your machine when they find the data encrypted. If the data is readable, you leave yourself vulnerable to fraud and identify theft.
And what about your security when using a public WiFi network? The majority of people who use public WiFi hotspots don’t realize that WiFi signals are just radio waves. Anyone in range can “listen in” to all of the data you send and receive, as easily as tuning to the right station. Antivirus or firewall software can’t protect you – but a personal VPN can. That’s why this final step is perhaps the most important if you’re prone to log in from a café, airport, hotel, or anywhere else with a WiFi hotspot. A personal VPN like Private WiFi scrambles your device’s WiFi signal using 128-bit SSL encryption, the same proven technology trusted by major companies, banks, and government agencies. That means simple VPN software can shield your usernames, passwords, Facebook account details, financial information, and other confidential tidbits – the details that keep identity thieves in business.
It’s time to put identity thieves out of business once and for all. By incorporating the simple steps listed above, you’ll be on the road to safeguarding your sensitive personal information on every device, whether at home or on the road.