Guard Your Laptop While Traveling

by Steve Dasseos on July 7, 2008

Guard Your Laptop While Traveling
by Paul Davis

While traveling by train from Philadelphia to Atlantic City I sat nearby a man who spent a portion of the time working on his laptop, but then fell asleep with his laptop on the seat besides him.

As my Dell Notebook is my most essential work tool as a writer, I was more concerned about the safety of his laptop than he was. During the hour and a half train ride, I alternated reading, gazing out the window, and watching his laptop.

When I was doing security work for the Defense Department I often advised our travelers to take care of their government-owned laptops, as they are highly pilferable. They are portable, being thin and light, and once stolen they are easy to hide by slipping them into a shopping bag or gym bag.

I was not only concerned about the lost of government property; I was also concerned about the loss of government data. Over the years I’ve read of cases where government officials lost their laptops by having them stolen or they simply left them on the seat of a train, plane or car.

Some of these officials, many of whom were senior officials, had highly classified and/or sensitive data stored on their laptops, which of course threatened national security. Although I handled many cases of lost or stolen government laptops, Blackberries and cell phones on my watch, thankfully none of them contained highly classified or sensitive data. This was no doubt due to our security briefings where we advised our people not to store critical data on portable electronic equipment.

This advice holds true for small business people as well. Thousands of laptops are stolen from traveling business people each year. Thieves love laptops even more than I-pods, and although some criminals will commit armed robbery to take them off you, most thieves prefer to lift the laptops from unsuspecting travelers.

Thieves look for flustered travelers who are struggling with too much luggage; they look for distracted travelers who place their laptop bags on the floor next to them as they scan train, plane and bus schedules from a pamphlet or the electronic board; and they look for travelers who are preoccupied with their children.

It’s best to carry your laptop in a bag that does not immediately identify the contents as a laptop, and you should have the bag’s strap securely in your hand or tight around your shoulder at all times while traveling.

While traveling on a train don’t fall asleep with your laptop out and exposed as a thief can easily take it and get off at the next stop. Don’t place it on the seat next to you unless the laptop is in its bag and you wrap the bag’s strap around your arm. Don’t place your laptop on the overhead rack. No only might it be stolen, but it might also get damaged if bounced around.

Possible the best place to store a laptop is on your lap with your arms over it. Another option is to place it on the floor between your legs, and wrap the strap around one of your legs.

The lost of your laptop can mean much more than the price of the equipment. You might also lose critical data, such as propriety information and personal information. The lost of personal information can lead to identify theft. If you lose an employee or customers’ personal data, you could be sued.

Your laptop is a vital tool for your business. While traveling, be advised that thieves are out there looking for an opportunity to steal your laptop. But by being aware and security-conscious, you can avoid having your trip (and perhaps your business) ruined by the theft of your laptop

Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime & security for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He can be reached at

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