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Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to prevent data theft from your laptop

Well most of us do not want to encounter a situation when you realize your laptop is gone and so also the data stored onto it. Data theft is no less than identity theft. These days most people carry out financial transactions on the Internet and so it's not surprising that people store confidential personal information onto their laptops. The theft of such data could spell disaster for the one affected as the thief is in a position to misuse the data. You might perhaps not be able to prevent your laptop from being stolen or be even be assured to get it back in case of a theft but you can surely prevent the misuse of the data stored onto it.

Here are a few ways you can prevent your data from being misused.

Use a login password
It is always a good practice to keep a login password for your laptop as this helps to prevent anybody from intruding into your laptop when it's left unattended. Also, try and choose a password that is not a whole word; instead the initials of a sentence; for example if the sentence you choose is "I was born on 10th March 1979", then your password could be "IWBO1M1". This way it will be impossible for anyone to guess your login password. You could keep all your passwords in such a format so that it's easier for you to remember.

Use biometrics for protection
Biometric security is a method in which the user's physiological features are used for authentication. These could include facial features, fingerprint recognition or iris recognition. Nowadays most laptops have a fingerprint reader and/or a facial feature recognizing software for authentication. If your laptop has any of these features, then do not hesitate to use it as the protection offered by this means is much better than using a password.

Limit personal data storage on your laptop
We are in the habit of having instantaneous access to our data and therefore we tend to store humongous data onto our laptop, including personal ones. It is safer to limit the personal data you store onto your laptop; store only that data which you require frequently. Meanwhile keep a complete backup of your data on your desktop at home or on an external portable drive.

Encrypt and password protect your documents
Always keep important documents and files on your laptop password protected. This not only prevents others from opening the file but also helps in scenarios where the document might have been sent to someone by mistake. You can password protect MS Office files; for files you cannot password protect, use software such as Folder Lock to password protect the folder you want to. The best way to protect files is to encrypt them using encryption software as it would be hard for anyone to try to retrieve information from an encrypted file.

Encrypt and store online
If you require frequent anytime access to your documents then you could consider storing them online for free. For instance Hotmail users can upload and store their documents onto Windows Live SkyDrive-a free online storage facility. Another similar feature available for AOL users is Xdrive and for Yahoo! users it is Yahoo! Briefcase. While Yahoo! Briefcase offers 30 MB of storage space, Xdrive and Windows Live SkyDrive offer 5 GB of free storage space. There are some applications such as Norton 360, which provides online backup of your data. If you use this application you can specify your folders for backup and it automatically synchronizes with your computer and updates the files. Online storage offers security and easy accessibility to your documents but while storing your documents online, make sure you encrypt and password protect them.

Clear your web browser's cache
Always keep your web browser's cache empty and do not let the web browser store any of your login user ids or passwords. If you prefer to choose the web browser to remember the username and password, chances are that anybody accessing your laptop can log into your account. Although it is a bit tedious to enter your user id and password every time you log in, it does go a long way in keeping your data safe.


Use Kensington lock
Finally there is a way in which you can prevent your laptop from being stolen-use the Kensington lock. Most laptops come with the Kensington Security Slot commonly known as Kensington lock. It is a small, cylindrical metal-reinforced hole present on one of the side panels of laptops. You can use the Kensington lock to secure your laptop to a heavy object such as a table using the lock and cable apparatus. Though this is isn't a foolproof security system as anyone using a wire-cutter can chop the cable, it at least deters someone from stealing your laptop when you are not around.

Prevention is always better than cure, we are often told. Protect your data from being misused by securing it before it is too late!

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