With the busy holiday season upon us, business people will be taking to the road with their laptops in tow. Unfortunately, many of these people will fall victim to laptop loss or theft. On top of the financial cost, the potential data loss and threat of identity theft associated with a missing laptop can seriously worsen the situation and have far-reaching consequences for individuals and companies alike.

According to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, 12,000 laptops a week are lost by business travelers alone. And, only 35% of business travelers say they protect the information on their laptop.1 When a laptop goes unclaimed for an extended period of time, the airline in possession of it may send it off to auction. That means the information in the laptop may be up for sale to the highest bidder. So protecting your laptop — and the information on it — becomes vitally important while traveling.

To help keep thieves at bay, Absolute advises taking the following 10 steps when traveling with your laptop during the holidays:

1. Back up valuable data before traveling. Back up your data as frequently as possible to minimize the risk of data loss in the event that your laptop is stolen. Use an encrypted thumb drive to back up sensitive or valuable files and keep it separate from your laptop. Because the information stored on the laptop is often more valuable than the laptop itself, it is important to treat the data with as much care as possible.

2. Use laptop recovery and data protection software. Laptop recovery tools are highly effective in the event thieves do make off with your gear. If you’ve installed Absolute Software’s Computrace® LoJack® for Laptops, the Absolute Theft Recovery Team can use information sent from the stolen laptop to track it down, assist your local police in recovering it and help prosecute the alleged thieves. And, while the laptop is being recovered, Absolute can remotely wipe sensitive information from the hard drive, rendering it inaccessible to the thieves.

3. Don’t put your laptop in your checked luggage. Checking your laptop is a big gamble; always keep it with you. Apart from not having your valuable and expensive gear under your control, baggage handlers don’t know what is in your bag. You run the risk of having your laptop broken or stolen in transit. Keep your laptop inconspicuous. Laptops especially should always be carried in nondescript carrying cases, such as backpacks or tote bags, instead of tell-tale laptop bags.

4. Clearly label your laptop to distinguish it from others at security checkpoints. When going through the metal detectors, hold on to your laptop until the last second. Clearly labeling the laptop itself will help you find it among other laptops once through the metal detectors. Make sure to put your name, contact information and address on the label, as most airport lost-and-founds won’t power up the laptop to find out whom it belongs to.

5. Ask to put your laptop in the hotel safe when you’re not using it. Most hotels have a safe that guests can use in their room or at the front desk. When making a reservation, ask whether the hotel offers this service. If they do not, stow your laptop in a secure cabinet in the room.

6. If you are using a public computer, be aware of keyboard loggers/trackers. Identity thieves will often install keyboard loggers on to public computers (like those in hotels or public libraries). These programs invisibly track the keystrokes of unsuspecting victims. A thief can come back at any time and see where you’ve been on the Internet and gather the usernames and passwords you’ve entered. 

7. Do not log on to unsecured wireless networks. If the wireless network you’re logging on to doesn’t require you to enter a password, don’t use it. Unsecured networks are a two-way street. While anyone can access the network, anyone on the network may be able to access your laptop, and subsequently your information.

8. Do not access financial or bank records while traveling. Avoid accessing financial or banking records while traveling, especially on public wireless networks. This will help to prevent your bank records and financial information from ending up in the wrong hands.

9. Deselect “remember me” when browsing the Internet. Clicking “remember me” on websites, or allowing the Internet browser to remember passwords or usernames, negates the security those username and passwords offer. If a thief gets a hold of your laptop, they will have the ability to easily steal your online (and possibly offline).

10. Clear your history and cache after using a Web browser. Web browsers remember everything about your session even after you’ve logged off. Before ending an Internet session - particularly on a public laptop - clear the private data (cookies, history, Internet files) stored in the browser. This can be accessed through the “tools” menu on most Internet browsers.