How to Secure Your Laptop
Laptops are stolen every day. In fact, nowadays, with the amount of data that can be stolen in a split second (laptops, flash drives, and portable hard drives) laptop security is more important than ever. This article will touch on how to properly secure your laptop and its contents.
Laptop: Luckily the most vulnerable item is also relatively easy to secure. Every laptop comes preconfigured with everything you will need to properly secure it. I recommend multi layered security for your computer; this means setting a Windows password, a BIOS / Power On Password, and a Hard Drive Password. A Windows password is a great place to start- Let me explain why. Windows lets you specify multiple users on any given system, and set varying levels of access for each one. You have an admin account, user accounts, and guest accounts. Only admins have complete access and are capable of implementing system wide changes. It is recommended you make any major changes under the Admin login, and create a normal user login for your daily computing tasks.
Windows will prompt you to select a user upon startup, and to provide the correct password for that user. This will prevent any unauthorized user from accessing your laptop, or and information on it- to a certain degree. There are ways around Windows passwords and they are easily circumvented by knowledgeable thieves, so this type of password by itself is not sufficient to keep your data safe. You will also need to set a power on password to ensure protection. A power on password prevents any user from accessing the boot menu, thus preventing any boot from removable media (which is how you circumvent a windows password). Without the correct power on password, the system will not progress any further in the boot sequence. A power on password adds an additional layer of security. To specify a power on password, access the BIOS menu (usually F2 on boot) and enable it under “security”. It will usually be disabled for easy setup, however it is always there and able for you to enable anytime you wish. Keep in mind an identity thief can easily slide your computer’s hard drive out and into another computer, so we will need further protection.
A power on password protects your laptop; however it will not safeguard your data by itself. Your personal data remains on your hard drive, and hard drives are easily removed from laptops. There is no way I know of to prevent a thief from removing your hard drive completely from your laptop and placing it in another computer. So, to ensure your data is safe you will need to also set a hard drive password. A hard drive password prevents access to a hard drive by unauthorized users. A would-be thief can’t even format the drive without knowing the correct password. All of these passwords are set by accessing the BIOS. Right after you turn on your computer, you will see text in the bottom half of the screen. Follow the instructions for the BIOS, usually F2. Under security settings, you are looking for “Enable HDD Password” or “HDD Protection”. Enable the password and create a new one. Your data is now reasonably secure. Unless you are carrying state secrets, I doubt anyone is willing to spend the time to un-encrypt your Hard Drive.
You might think setting all of these passwords is overkill, however if your laptop is ever stolen you will now have peace of mind. I have had a laptop stolen before; and I can tell you there is no worse feeling than realizing how much confidential information may have just been stolen. This level of security is not necessary on every computer you own, just the portable ones you carry with you into public.