Only losers lose notebooks, right? Think again. There are few pieces of IT hardware out there that can “disappear” more easily and frequently than your good old-fashioned mobile computer. And the missing hardware won’t even be half of your problem. More likely than not, your private or organization’s notebook contains highly-sensitive information that you quite simply can’t afford to lose. The problem is, there is practically nothing you can do about it once your notebook is gone. Not unless you take a few simple protective measures first, that is. And here they are in a nutshell.
Use Encrypting File System (EFS). XP’s EFS enables you to quickly and easily encrypt sensitive information on your notebook, thus making its potential theft irrelevant. Nobody will be able to read the information you have encrypted with EFS, not even after having installed a new operation system on the stolen machine to try and do so.
Secure your BIOS. It only takes you a minute to password-protect your notebooks BIOS. Unlike EFS, this safety measure may be possible to get around, but at least nobody will be able to boot your system without using a password. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to configure your BIOS to boot from the hard drive first, thus denying thieves the possibility of manipulating the boot process with other media.
Never disable the Windows OS password feature. And should you be using a notebook from a manufacturer who has configured the system to startup the welcome screen without asking for a password, change this immediately. It’s certainly easy enough. Just go to the user accounts section (Control Panel) and configure your account to be password-protected. If you are the sole user of your notebook, disable any other user accounts (including the guest account) while you’re at it.
Login to your VPN connection manually. If you or you company have configured your system to connect over your virtual private network automatically, give yourself a push and change this to a manual configuration. Although very convenient to use (that’s one less password for you to remember, for instance), automated login scripts allow anyone in possession of your notebook to also login automatically.
ALWAYS use a firewall. You may still be in possession of your notebook and still manage to lose the valuable information if you’re not careful. That information you are so concerned about protecting can be stolen or compromised if you don’t have a personal firewall in place at home – or on the road. Your system will also be open to potential unauthorized access through malware and virus attacks.
Don’t laugh. Just lock your system down with a cable lock. It only takes a moment of inattention at a busy or unfamiliar location and your notebook will be gone for good. Never leaving your notebook unattended is understood, of course, and yet a slip-up is always possible. You know, things happen. Take the time and make a small investment and buy yourself a cable lock. You can then quickly and easily attach your notebook to a secure object in your vicinity and rest assured should, say, the call of nature calls you.
And last but not least, consider investing in notebook tracking software. Although still a bit on the cutting edge and therefore complex and expensive, there are a number of security applications available out there which will allow your notebook to actually contact you or someone else should it be lost or stolen. Some systems are in the position to make contact when connected again to the Internet, others can actually report the system’s physical location. Open up Google and do a search on “notebook tracking software”. There are certainly enough out there to choose from!