Vacation Tips for Laptop Users

By: Flora Richards-Gustafson

Finally, a break! Make sure your vacation is memorable because of the great time you had, not because something happened to your computer. Read on for a complete checklist of things to do to make sure your computer and the data on it is ready to jet with you.

Back-up your data and clean-up your computer.
Copy important or valuable items - documents, photos, presentations, email records - on to an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or an online service and store it in a lockable location at your office or at home. This will ensure you have a back-up of everything vital should your computer become lost or damaged while traveling.

If using an email program like Outlook, export your data (like contacts) into a file that will be saved onto a flash drive or external hard drive as well.

Encrypt your data for another layer of protection.
Many computer system security features now easily let users encrypt their data so that others cannot see their personal information. Run this before packing up your laptop.

Never leave passwords or other confidential information in your computer's carrying case.
Would you ever leave your keys in the door of your car? Leaving passwords in the same case as your computer is like doing just this.

Keeping your passwords in a separate location will make it harder for a thief to access your personal and/or corporate files. Even better: memorize your passwords to avoid carrying them around in the first place.

For the purposes of information security, it is recommended that one change all of their passwords upon returning from their vacation. That way thieves cannot have access to any of your online accounts if they did get a hold of your passwords.

Use something less obvious than a laptop bag to tote your computer.
Special padded backpacks, padded briefcases, or padded messenger bags are a better option. People that will want to take your computer are looking for an easy way to grab and go, so they will look for the most obvious thing that tells them one has a computer.

Use a laptop security device.
Laptop security cables work like a bike lock; simply lock them into your computer and loop the cable around a heavy item when you are using your laptop on vacation. This will make it harder for a thief to walk away with your computer. If possible, avoid leaving your laptop in a hotel room if you will be stepping out as things sometimes get 'lost' in hotels. However, if taking your laptop with you is not an option, lock the laptop into the hotel safe and place the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door.

There are also tracking services one can purchase for their laptop. If your computer is stolen, the service will be able to tell one the exact physical location of their computer once the perpetrator connects to the internet. For your safety, have law enforcement assist you with retrieving your stolen goods.

Configure your computer's security when using public Wi-Fi.
Make sure your firewalls and virus protection services are up-to-date and working properly before going on vacation. Password-protect your computer before connecting to any wireless networking device. Download current spyware protection and OS security patches.

Do not use the "Remember Me" feature on websites or the feature that remembers your online passwords. Re-type your passwords every time - especially while overseas. Clear your browser after each use and delete your history, caches, cookies, and temporary internet files.

Disable infrared or Bluetooth ports when they are not in use so someone else doesn't use them. Terminate internet connections when you do not need to go online.

Be prepared for anything.
You never know what you may run into while on vacation. Have the necessary materials with you for any situation. Write the phone number for your technical support or help desk and keep it with you in your suitcase, bag or planner. If you are going overseas, pack the appropriate power adapter for your laptop. Pack an Ethernet cable in case your hotel's wireless does not work.

When traveling with your laptop, computer security is an important thing to keep in mind. Taking the proper steps before you take-off and being smart about what you do with your laptop will help ensure happy travels.

~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009

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