Guard Your Laptop While Traveling

Thousands of laptops are stolen from traveling business people each year. Thieves love laptops. Although some criminals will commit armed robbery to take them from you, most thieves prefer to lift laptops from unsuspecting travelers. Here’s advice you can use to avoid becoming a victim.

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

As my laptop computer 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’re easy to hide by slipping them into a shopping bag or gym bag.

I was not only concerned about the loss of government property, but also the loss of government data. Over the years I’ve read of cases where government officials lost their laptops by having them stolen or simply leaving 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 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, and many try to lift them 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 doesn’t 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. Not only might it be stolen, but it might also get damaged if bounced around.

Possibly 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 loss of your laptop can mean much more than the price of the equipment. You might also lose critical data, such as proprietary information and personal information. The loss of personal information can lead to identify theft. If you lose an employee’s or customer’s 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 it. But by being aware and security-conscious, you can avoid having your trip (and maybe your business) ruined by the theft of your laptop.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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