Tips for secure travelling with your laptop or similar device.
Secure your personal data on your laptop:
a- Use a BIOS password.
b- Even with the BIOS password on boot-up the hard drive can still be read if someone steals your laptop, removes the drive and attaches it to another system.
To secure your data use full disk encryption. I have used encryption for files, folders, and USB drives (flash and hard drives) for years but never got around to installing FDE on my laptop. Even though important files may be password protected the operating system itself may leave footprints anywhere that could then be read by a determined hacker. To prevent this use FDE. I finally installed this on my laptop just prior to my recent 3 week trip to SE Asia. I was amazed at how simple and easy it was to use my software (Truecrypt) to perform the FDE, it just took a looong time to encrypt the drive (3-4 hours). I found no effect on performance other than on booting when I had to enter the encryption password just after the BIOS password (but before Windows loads).
c- The paranoid, or those with a need to be so, might restrict the BIOS settings so that the system can boot from the hard drive only (even if the drive is fully encrypted…watch out for "Evil Maid" attacks with key loggers).
Secure your internet access of important data:
a- For internet access make certain you won’t be subject to "eavesdropping" while you are making financial transactions, etc, at Starbucks, the hotel, etc. It seems the only way to do this (unless you are staying at someone’s house and you KNOW they have a secure network with encryption) is to use a VPN. For my recent trip I decided to use a new product from Symmantec, Norton HotSpot Privacy. This is not a cheap option, but for one month it cost me only $20 ($50/yr), plus it was good for our two iPods (up to 5 devices can be covered under same purchase).
b- Remember that your email account password may be your point of vulnerability. It may be linked to your financial accounts, etc. So if someone does hack into your life if they can get hold of your email then they may be able to get into your finances as well. Use a really secure password for your web-based email access.
I don’t know that I would ever use a computer at a hotel kiosk or internet café to check anything where I had to enter a password. There is just too much hacking, etc, going on and these access points are generally not very secure, if there is any security at all.
BIOS is the thing that starts up the computer before Windows takes over. You can have a Windows account password for each user, but you can also set a BIOS password so that the computer won't even start unless the password is entered.