How to Secure Your Laptop (Data) from Theft

Laptop is a personal computer designed for mobile use, and are becoming more popular for general as well as corporate uses. Which means you can’t choose to keep your Laptop out of network connection, you can’t Block USB storage devices to access your Laptop in your work or home environment, if this is the only option left, it creates a big issue for data theft from your Laptop as you would read about in subsequent sections of this white paper.

According to Privacy Rights Clearing house, an astonishing figure of more than 350 mlaptop_data_securityillion numbers of records containing sensitive personal information were involved in security breaches only in the U.S. since January 2005. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that a very large number of data breach took place around the world during the same period.

Potential Increase in Data Theft due to Increasing Number of Laptop Users

Researches predicts a dramatic growth in PCs, particularly in emerging markets, with a worldwide compound annual growth rate of more than 12 percent between 2003 and 2015.

Initially, Laptops were considered mostly for specialized field applications such as the military, accountants and sales representatives. However, today, Laptops are becoming more popular for students, engineers, doctors, and professionals for their general as well technical uses. The analyst firms attributes this boom to lower prices and growing demand as the world population becomes technology-aware.

Yet another reason for booming Laptop user growth is the portability of the device, more and more users are following work from home culture.

In the IDC’s forecast reports about the PC market, there appears a significant increase in Laptop use than Desktop PC’s, and the ratio of Laptop to desktop PC users is expected to go above 50 % in the years to come.

Know the Open doors of your laptop

So, how could one lose confidential and personal information from a laptop. Here are some of the most critical ones explained:-

a. Internet Applications
In case of use of Internet applications like file sharing, chat, VoIP, P2P, email clients, any unauthorized access or use of these applications on your Laptop by a second person will provide the user an open window to transfer various confidential and private files over the network.

b. Internet Portals, Social Networks and Games
Some of the websites could be really nasty for your laptop’s data security. If your antivirus do not know whether a website you were visiting last night has injected worms in your system, you have got to be really careful about using your credit card number, SSN etc before you are sure that everything is fine. There have been multiple cases worldwide of identity breach and financial theft through automated worms and viruses.

Social networks, online gaming, online dating etc are becoming increasing addictive and lot of people are getting more and more obsessed with online activities through websites and internet portal. Some of these portals asks you to install missing plug-ins or upgrading your flash player. Sometime they will be genuine, but, other time they could just be trying to get into your system. This might be difficult for even the anti-viruses to detect because these installations are user consented.

c. USB Drives, CD-DVD and Printers
Anyone  having unauthorized access to your laptop may copy files through CD/DVDs, USB Drives, Memory Cards, etc. and might also print confidential information through the printers connected to your PC.

Lets take a test case of data theft through USB drives, Suppose you were working in your office environment, and one of your colleague asks to use his storage device to copy some of the project files on your Laptop. During this process, accidentally or intentionally, your colleague copies some personal files from your Laptop. Do you have any means to stop that or track it ?,

If not, you might become a victim of Identity Theft and the worst part, you might not know about it for quite a long time.

d. Wireless
Bluetooth, Infrared, or Wi-Fi are really great technologies and we love to use them. But, there is one bit you should know. If you are not a tech geek about computers, the default setting on your laptop might connect you automatically to some of these public wireless hot-spots and you might not notice at all.

From that point onwards, your laptop might become a part of an unsafe network because others in the same network can connect to you directly. I would just wish, you don’t get any black hats our there. So, before putting information like passwords, bank accounts details, credit cards numbers, social security numbers etc at risk double check about the credibility of the connection you are using while you connect to any public Wi-Fi.

e. Stolen Laptop or Media
Losing your laptop can be really worrying. You know all the reasons why and breaking into a laptop even if its password protected is not a rocket science.

How to secure your laptop’s data ?
You should look into two area while managing the security and protection of your laptop; physical security to prevent it from any physical loss or theft and software security of your data by installing the basic programs to secure the data.

Here are some of the basic things you can do to secure your laptop physically,
i. Get custom Engraving done on the Laptop
ii. Get your Laptop registered with your manufacturer
iii. Use a Cable Lock
iv. Use a Chain/Cable Lock while in Car
v. Use a Docking Station
vi. Get a Laptop with biometric identification

Ways to prevent any breach in the Laptops internal security using software:-
i. Get a secure Operating System with the Latest Updates
ii. Always use the NTFS file system on windows
iii. Disable Guest Account if not used on windows
iv. Disable Administrative Shares and all default shares on windows
v. Disable the IR Port if any and not used. You can enable it whenever required
vi. Switch on the Bluetooth Port only when required
vii. Always install a good Antivirus and Antispyware in your Laptop
viii. Always use firewalls for Wired and Wireless Connections
ix. Store your important files and documents in a single place and keep them encrypted
x. Implement more control over removable Storage Devices and CD/DVD Drives
xi. Be careful when connecting to a new Wireless Network
xii. Use firewalls effectively on USB Modems which you use to access Internet
xiii. Lock your Laptop whenever you are away
xiv. Always keep backup of your files in another central computer or server or external Hard Disk
xv. If you want a bit more security,keep a good BIOS password

[Guest article by Dataresolve, an endpoint security company. The company builds data security and endpoint security solutions. They have over 20,000 installation base worldwide with customer spread across 14 countries worldwide. Reproduced from blog]

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