Security Tips For Laptops

We all know that laptop security means using a strong password to login: a password that uses alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric digits in a long string you can remember.

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We also know that it means not using public Wi-Fi if you can help it, and certainly not for anything involving sensitive information, like finances. But aside from using a strong password to deter hackers, and trying to keep them off your system by staying off public wireless, there’s a lot you can you do to secure your laptop.

A lot.

Instead of focusing on cybersecurity, we’re going to talk about something that can be easy to neglect: your laptop’s physical security. When someone takes an unsecured laptop from someone in the corporate world that contains thousands of medical records, credit card numbers, or personal information like social security numbers, we call that a data breach. When it happens to you, it’s still a data breach — just on a personal level.

Use A Protective Bag

So how do you protect your laptop? The easiest way is simple — don’t look like you’re carrying a laptop. Avoid shoulder bags and expensive laptop bags. Instead, pick something nondescript (and hard to yank away), like a backpack.

Make It Identifiable

Carving your name and contact info onto the laptop could deter thieves who just want it for resale value. (But this will also hurt your resale value if you ever want to sell it later.) You can also enroll your laptop in programs such as STOP, which Computer Weekly explains is a “bar-coded metal tag with a registration number, indelible identification and 24×7 hotline number. The make, model, serial number and laptop owner are also stored in an online asset tracking database.” 

Consider A Proximity/Motion Alarm

The second easiest way to lose your laptop is to actually lose it. According to Tech Radar, “tens of thousands of laptops are lost in airports every year, and only one third of them are returned to their owners.” To avoid leaving your laptop behind at the airport bar, consider a proximity alarm. These alarms sound off when you move beyond a certain radius from your laptop (or cell phone, or keys, or whatever else you’ve attached it to). And if you’re going to be away from your laptop, you may want to invest in a motion alarm.

Lock It Up

After you’ve got your nondescript bag and your alarm, look into getting an actual, physical laptop lock. There are various options out there, and many of effective locks can be found for less than $30 — a low price to protect your laptop and its data.

Consider A Privacy Filter For Your Screen

If you work often in public, you may want to buy a privacy filter for your screen. You don’t need people to see your communications and documents, no matter how sensitive they may be. Most of these screens cost $20-$40, but do your research to find the best option for you. Anti-glare and anti-scratch protection are both nice to have, as is an easy on-and-off capacity. 

Your laptop doesn’t have to be a sitting duck for whatever smash-and-grab street thief — or hacker — decides to pick you out as a target. Be vigilant. When combined with all the security protocols you should have in place, you should be able to make stealing your laptop more trouble than it’s worth. So make sure you don’t neglect your laptop’s physical safety. It may be the most important security work you do.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on

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