This is the third part of the series The Traveler’s Guide To Locking Down Your Laptop. Begin your laptop lock down by reading Part 1 on Physical Security and Part 2 on Protecting Your Data before finishing with this, Part 3 of the series.
The online world is a vast one. When you’re connected to any network your laptop is communicating all sorts of data about itself. You also use the Internet to store your personal emails, calendars, websites, pictures, and almost anything you can. Computer security goes beyond your laptop these days but there are a few ways you can protect your information on the web.
Mix Up Your Passwords
This is basic but like I mentioned yesterday, a good password goes a long way. Use KeePassX or Password Safe (mentioned before) to create and manage a separate password for you email, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, etc. accounts. Even the silly old accounts your create to take a personality quiz or send an online greeting card.
- That’s the best way, but if you know you’re realistically not going to do it, create 3 or 4 password categories and use them. One category for accounts you don’t care about right up to very sensitive accounts like email.
Protect Your Money When Booking Online
There are 3 simple ways to protect your credit card when booking travel arrangements online. Some of that basic advice works well for other accounts as well:
- Don’t follow links in emails to sensitive accounts even if you trust the person. Accounts, links, and email addresses can all be spoofed (made to look like something they’re not). Go to the link directly by typing it in.
- This is one way Twitter accounts are hacked. Typically people click a malicious link they’re sent to get hacked. Oh, and since you use the same password for everything, there go your other accounts too.
Set Up A Firewill and Anti-Virus Software
A firewall is basically a filter on what goes out and more importantly, what comes in to your computer. You should have one running and most operating systems now come with them built-in. You can check easily by doing the following:
- Windows 7, Vista, XP: Start Menu > Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall (or some close variation). Make sure the firewall is marked “On”.
- Mac: Chances are your firewall isn’t on. You can get it running by System Preferences > Security > Firewall > Start. The Mac OS X firewall isn’t as automated as the Windows versions so brush up on this Mac firewall for dummies for help.
- Test your online defenses using Norton’s free online tool or Shield’s Up.
Anti-virus software is as important as a firewall, especially for you Windows users. Try the free AVG or Avast! with some SuperAntiSpyware in for good measure. Mac users there are no viruses in the wild (aka. actually feasible attacks) for now. If you’re interested though Norton makes one for Mac for $50.
Hide Your Tracks
You may be traveling to places where the regime or government isn’t too happy about you visiting certain sites or reading about things like democracy. You can hide your tracks and visit the sites you want by using Tor to browse anonymously.
- Get around US-only and other regional blocks. To visit US-only websites (like Hulu or Netflix), try HotSpot Shield or if that’s not working these HotSpot Shield alternatives.
- Beef up Firefox with private browsing and installing the plugins WOT (warns you about shady sites) and Dr.Web which checks links for viruses before you download.
- Don’t ever use computer-to-computer wireless networks.
- Have A WordPress travel blog? Don’t forget to keep your blog safe.
Keep in mind that Tor, Hotspot Shield, and these other programs don’t encrypt or secure your passwords. They just act as a go-between so if possible don’t access sensitive accounts when using them.
Do Some Of Your Own Hacking
Knowing your way a bit more around computer security you can now get a little creative and start thinking like a hacker on the road.
- Find Wi-Fi – Using a traveler’s guide to hacking wireless networks.
- Share A Paid Internet Connection – So you’ve paid that awful rate for an hour of airport wireless, why not share with your friends?
- Really Delete Your Stuff – Download Eraser for Windows; Mac users can open up Trash then select Finder > Secure Empty Trash
Divide And Don’t Be Conquered
You can’t protect or secure all of your online accounts or laptop from a determined attacker with wire cutters. Your best bet is to follow these precautions, discourage potential thieves, and minimize the damage a hack would cause. Separate passwords, encrypting your hard drive, and locking up your laptop will help keep your most precious possession in good hands – yours.