A laptop is an easy target to obtain a nicely packaged source of sensitive personally identifiable information. It’s almost a guarantee that your laptop contains your name, your address, your phone number, your email addresses, some passwords, some account information, and even the names of family members. It is a perfect package for an identity thief to steal your identity and run some fraudulent transactions or sell your data on the dark web. The best way to get all of your laptop data is to steal the actual computer as a whole. They can then remove your hard drive and use password hacking software to get access to all your files. Your information could be used to create new accounts under your name or your current accounts can be used for fraudulent transactions.
A laptop’s data can also be tapped into through an unsafe network that you have logged into or through a data collecting virus. Infected files can be a hassle to deal with on their own, but unknowingly downloading a virus that distributes your data to another source can lead to headaches of identity theft. In many cases, you may not even be aware that data has been stolen from your laptop. There are such things as keystroke copiers that can detect when you are typing in passwords into websites so that your passwords will be sent to outside sources that can compromise your online accounts. Although the more technologically advanced threats are not as common, it is important to be aware of them. Anytime your laptop or computer displays unusual behavior where it seems like someone is remotely controlling your machine, you need to take steps to make sure your data is secure.
Things You Can Do To Prevent Identity Theft From Your Laptop
Use a Laptop Lock or a Laptop Bag Lock
Use a cable lock for your laptop if you will be leaving it unsupervised for long periods of time. Most laptops have a security slots where you can insert a lock to secure it to a desk or another stationary object. You can also get a luggage padlock for your laptop bag if needed. These locks are generally easy to find and inexpensive. Even if you are sitting at an outdoor coffee shop checking your emails, you may want to secure your laptop to deter a desperate thief from grabbing your machine and running off down the street with it.
Don’t Ever Leave Your Laptop Unsupervised in Public Places
It is tempting to leave your laptop for a quick bathroom break when you are at your college library or at a Starbucks in your hometown, but better not take the risk. You never know when someone has been eyeing your machine for an opportunity to swipe it into their duffel bag.
Keep Your Anti-Virus Software Updated
The cost of anti-virus software like Norton Anti-Virus can be as low as $20 per year. Some very basic protection can also be used for free. It’s well worth the price to save you from the inconvenience of identity theft or losing your data on your laptop. Remember to keep the software subscription renewed and updated. You can also use free trials for the anti-virus software that are available to make sure there are no conflicts on your computer that can slow down performance.
Treat Your Laptop Like Your Car In a Bad Neighborhood
When you park your car in a high crime neighborhood, you make sure to lock the car, put away any valuable items, and park in a highly visible area. You should take the same measures for your laptop.
Use sensible passwords with some unique meaning to you. Although hackers can use software to crack your password, the software may take longer and require more time for a hacker to break if you have a more difficult password. The time it takes them to crack your code may be just enough for you to stop the problem.
Your valuable items in this case is your data. Just like leaving jewelry visibly accessible in your car, be careful which documents and data you store on your laptop. Be aware of the data that you are keeping on it. You may want to save the more sensitive data on a separate hard drive in another location rather than the laptop you carry with you everyday.
Parking in a secure area is comparable to using your laptop in secure networks. When using a public network, be aware of the sites you are visiting and the sensitivity of the data you are using when you are on the network. You should also avoid questionable websites altogether. Visiting any website is opening a connection to your computer. When you visit a website that is not secure, you are leaving an opening for viruses or hackers to compromise your system.
In general, protect your laptop as you would protect all of your other valuable assets. After all, your laptop may have enough information to be worth more than most things you own.