From coffee shops to office spaces, we bring our laptops everywhere. After all, that’s what they’re designed for. But, moving around means security risks, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Even though laptops and desktops are essentially the same (function-wise), laptops come with quite a bit more security aspects to worry about.
So, let’s go through a list of best practices that’ll help keep your laptop safe!
Passwords are the first line of defense you can work on. Setting a strong and complex password will lower the chances of someone breaking into your laptop, online or in real life. A study on 10 million passwords has shown that people generally tend to use common patterns. So, to break this cycle and level up your password game, you should:
- Set a screensaver that is password-protected – combine numbers, symbols, and letters to create a complex phrase.
- Use different passwords for different accounts – while using the same password for everything may seem convenient, it’s bad practice.
- If possible, use a password manager like Nordpass – this way, you can set a truly complex password and easily apply it.
Setting a solid password adds a layer of protection to your accounts and your laptop. If you want to go further…
Two-factor authentication (or 2FA for short) is a system that requires two forms of authentication for a login request to go through. There are multi-factor authentication systems out there as well, but a second layer will be more than enough to greatly boost your online security.
You can choose to “tie” your account to your phone, Google account, or you can even put biometrics into the mix. But, the main thing is, if someone gets ahold of your credentials, your phone will ping you to approve or deny. A lot of e-banking apps have this as a requirement every time you log into the app.
We can’t talk about cybersecurity without talking about physical security. If you travel a lot or carry your laptop with you everywhere, having some sort of physical protection is more than welcome. This is especially important if you work in crowded co-working spaces.
One thing you can do is install a privacy filter on your laptop’s display. This is a special kind of film that makes it impossible to see what’s on your computer screen from the side. The layer simply makes the screen dimmer for everyone except you.
There’s also the option of getting a lockable power cable. This would make it harder for anyone to move your laptop physically.
Also, whenever you are stepping away from the laptop, you should log out. On Windows, the shortcut is Win + L, while it’s Control + Command + Q on Mac.
While laptops and desktops are virtually the same nowadays, laptop users are still at higher risk of malicious software. This is because laptops connect to all sorts of networks and are more vulnerable because of this.
Now, Windows’ own antivirus software works well enough, but it would be wise to get additional protection as well.
To make the most out of your antivirus, you shouldn’t just leave it on auto-pilot. Make full use of the program’s scanning features, and manually scan your device every once in a while. You can also get browser extensions that will make your online experience safer.
Third-party antivirus software (and pretty much all other software you have on your laptop) needs regular updates to work properly. Speaking of…
One of the most tedious pop-ups you can get while reading emails in a coffee shop is “please restart the system to update”. The best course of action is always to save your work and download updates as soon as possible.
Your OS and your apps patch all sorts of things and send out updates regularly. Almost every update contains some sort of security patch, where the developers fix a known “hole”.
So, you should never hesitate to download updates. If you want to go a step further, you can read through the update notes and familiarize yourself with them. There are more security vulnerabilities on your device than you’d think, and updates are great at eliminating them.
There’s a reason why we insist on keeping your laptop safe in a public environment – the chances of catching malware are simply higher. That’s why we should all try our best to avoid unknown public networks. The chances are lower to get hacked on your smartphone, but your laptop is less secure from these attacks.
If completely avoiding public networks is impossible for you, the next best course of action would be to get a VPN. While you won’t be entirely protected, you’ll get an extra layer of protection online. A Virtual Private Network approach to the internet can do wonders in combination with a solid antivirus.
Lastly, this isn’t cybersecurity advice, per se. Instead, it is a suggestion of good faith and common sense. If you need data to operate day-to-day, and you have to store the data on your laptop – make regular backups. Cloud or external drives, it’s your choice.
By making secure backups, you lower the risk of getting locked out of your files by ransomware. Additionally, if a virus takes over your system, there’s a good chance a system reinstall can solve it. If you make a backup, you won’t have to worry about losing your data after nuking the OS.
No matter if you spend a lot of time on the go or not, take some time and make your laptop’s security tight. Minor tweaks here and there will significantly enhance your laptop experience, keeping you safe as well.
To recap – use stronger passwords (and 2FA), avoid public connections if you can (VPNs can help), and make regular backups of your important data.
Hopefully, these cybersecurity best practices will help you keep your portable workstation safer. Remember, prevention is key!