tips for traveling with a laptop security software

Laptop security software is just a common way for referring to software that protects your computer.  Now that many people only use a laptop as their primary computer, the distinction almost seems unnecessary.  Just to clarify, there is never any distinction between desktops or laptops when talking about security software.

Let’s just get on to the tips for secure traveling with your laptop!

Before You Go Install a Security Software on your Laptop

Be sure to install all of the latest security patches.  This should include your OS and third party applications (PDF viewer, chat, browser, etc.).  As part of this, make sure all of your desktop security software, as well as the software you use normally, is up to date.  This will guarantee protection against any threats you may encounter on a public WiFi connection.

As tempting is it may be, it is best not to mention anything about going on vacation on your social network of choice.

Make a backup of your computer.  This is one of our ten rules to keeping your system secure, but make sure you definitely make a backup before you leave.  Should you get some sort of infection while out and about, you will be able to enjoy your vacation much more if you know the contents of your disk are safe at home ready to restore when you get back.

If you haven’t already done so, encrypt or password protect your data and/or any data devices you are taking with you.  Just like pickpockets hang out in crowded tourist areas, hackers look for chances to exploit unprotected public WiFi.

During Your Trip

Most people who travel with a laptop are very quick with the computer usage they need.  Usually, they just need to log in quickly to check and send e-mail.  Because of not wanting to be on the computer too long, you may be tempted to bypass any virus definition updates from your antivirus or other security software.  Because new threats are flagged everyday, please, don’t forget your updates.  This is a must!

If on an unknown network where you are unsure about the security of the connection, do not enter personal details such as credit cards or passwords.  If you want to be extra careful, disable autostart for programs that use the internet to log on with a password (Skype, MSN, etc.).

In addition to the above, avoid Internet banking on networks that are not your own.  This even includes your hotel.  Just because they have high speed Internet does not mean that it is secure and virus free.  If you have kept your security software up to date, your system should catch any threats.  But why risk it?  If it is really necessary to do business while away, invest in a portable wireless option from your Internet Provider before you go.

Because flash drives and other USB devices are a common source of malware infection, turn off the “Autoplay” option in the control panel.  Another suggestion is to give each one a quick scan with your antivirus or anti-malware software before opening any files.

Optional:  Change your wireless network settings and avoid connecting to unsecured public WiFi.  This can be done from the control panel at “Network and Internet Connections.”

When You Get Back Home

Scan and patch the computer you work on, if it should be different from the one you had on your trip.  Remember, as long as you have been away, it has been sitting there, collecting dust on its virus definitions and other security updates.  This is a pain on a busy day back in the office, but know it will be part of your first day back and schedule it in so you don’t skip over it in a rush.

Finally, you probably took some pictures.  Maybe you took a lot.  You will also probably want to share those pictures.  However, JPG files also have an EXIF field that many are unaware of.  If you took these pictures with your iPhone or other smart phone, this field will have GPS coordinates.  This is not necessarily a concern for everyone, but say you were staying in a vacation home that you or a friend owns.  Some one could find this picture online, see your comment how the vacation house now has a new TV, and find out exactly where this unoccupied house is from the JPG.  For more information, learn how the EXIF field can be  cleaned.

Safe and digitally secure travels!

John Thomas
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