What security steps are specific to laptops over desktop computers?
This question was answered on August 10, 2023. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Whether you’re a first-year college student or a veteran road warrior, getting a new laptop secured and protected as soon as possible is important.
There are very significant threats you should protect against and know what to do should you find yourself dealing with them.
It Goes Lost Or Is Stolen
One of the major differences with a laptop is that you can use it anywhere, which also puts it at a much greater risk of going missing. Even if you’re a very watchful person, clever thieves working in groups can create diversions that allow them to easily make off with your device.
Should it go missing, the ability to track it will only work if you set it up ahead of time. Windows users should enable the ‘Find my device’ feature and MacOS users should set up the ‘Find My Mac’ option.
Once you’ve got tracking set up, you should also go through the steps on how to track it from another device such as your smartphone, tablet, or another computer. Time is of the essence when your laptop goes missing, so you’ll want to know exactly what to do quickly.
Lock On Sleep/Screensaver
Another setting you should consider changing is what happens when the screensaver activates or it goes into sleep mode.
It may seem like a nuisance, but you should set up your laptop to ask for your password whenever you ‘wake’ it from either situation.
This will keep others from easily accessing all your information or changing your password if you step away while in those modes.
The next option I change is telling the computer to go into sleep mode immediately if I close the lid, which combined with the previous step password protects it immediately if I need to step away.
Automatic Cloud Backup
If you think about it, you really value your data more than you value the actual laptop itself. Making sure your critical data is securely backed up will help whether your device goes missing, contracts some form of ransomware, or suffers a catastrophic failure.
Backing up to an external hard drive won’t be of much help if someone steals your laptop bag with everything in it or you get hit with ransomware while your external drive is plugged in.
Internet Security Software
There was a time when the operating system you were using had a big impact on the threats you’d be exposed to, but these days, hackers really don’t care. They know we all spend so much time on the Internet that targeting your browser is much more efficient.
Whether you're using a Mac or Windows laptop, having security software watching over your interactions can prevent a lot of headaches.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
An essential security tool for laptops that will be connecting to public Wi-Fi networks is some form of VPN, which essentially separates you from other users on those unsecured networks.
You can opt for a simple approach, such as installing the Opera browser (https://www.opera.com) which has a built-in VPN option and always using it instead of your default browser when you connect to public Wi-Fi.
If you want to use other apps besides a web browser on public Wi-Fi, a full-featured VPN tool that generally costs around $30 to $50 per year is safer.
About the author
Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on August 10, 2023