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Securing your laptop

Updated on July 13, 2016

For most people laptops are a normal part of their daily lives, however how much thought do people actually put into how secure these devices are? We use laptops for work, banking, our personal data photographs etc so why don't we spend more time securing the devices that we spend so much of our lives on? The main reason is probably effort, it just takes to much effort to worry about all that crap. Whats the worst thing that could happen anyway? I suppose worst case scenario is identity theft followed by all your bank accounts reset to zero and an email to everyone in your contacts of that inappropriate picture you took on a late Saturday night and forgot to erase. But lets not think about what could happen as I am going to give you a list of 5 things you can do to hopefully prevent some of the above.

1) Patch your operating system/ applications

This one is pretty straight forward, Microsoft and Apple both send out regular patches for their operating systems you should take the time to install these and keep your operating system up to date. Most attackers will try and exploit weaknesses in an operating system so by keeping your system patched you are staying a step ahead of at least some attacks.

For information on how to do this on Windows click here

And for apple click here

Once you have your operating system all patched your focus should turn to your applications as the same applies here. A handy tool that I use for this is the free software vulnerability scanner Secunia PSI that can be downloaded here. I don't believe that this works with mac but the link above on apple explains how you can keep all of your iOS applications updated. You should also install an anti-virus software AVG is a good free one for malware you can also install malware bytes this is free for a trial period which should be long enough to get rid of any nasty malware on your system.

2) Create a backup

This is very important and with the flurry of ransomware attacks happening at the moment it may also save you losing a week or twos wages to get your data back. Creating a backup in Windows is actually pretty straight forward.
go to Control Panel - Backup and Restore - Create a system image
Once you get here you need to plug in a hard drive or multiple cds/dvds for your machine to backup to. It takes about 2 hours depending on your system but might save you a major headache long term!
Apple has a number of backup options that can be found here.

3) Encrypt your hard drive

This is important it also takes a bit of time so do it last thing in the evening as it does effect the performance of your machine whilst running. Remember encrypting your hard drive will keep your data safe if your machine is ever lost or stolen. Windows uses BitLocker to encrypt drives and can be turned on by going to the search bar at the bottom of your screen and typing in "Manage Bitlocker" this will open up the Bitlocker manager here you can turn bit locker on. If you get an error message about TPM you will need to do the following before you proceed:
1) Log on to Windows 10 computer with the account that has administrative privileges.
2) Click Start and at the bottom of the menu in search box type GPEDIT.MSC command and press enter key.
3) On the opened Local Group Policy Editor snap-in from the left pane expand Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Bit Locker Drive Encryption and from the expanded list click to select Operating System Devices.
4) From the right pane double-click “Require additional authentication” at startup.
5) On the opened box click to select Enabled radio button and ensure that under Options section Allow Bit Locker without a compatible TPM checkbox is checked.
6) Once done, click Ok button to allow the changes to take effect and close Local Group Policy Editor snap-in.
Once this is done return to the Bitlocker manager and turn Bitlocker on, it is very important that you keep the recovery password you are given in a safe place as you will need this if you ever forget your password.
Apple uses FileVault to do this and the instruction to do this can be found here.

4) Invest in a VPN

I know I have said this before but I can not stress it enough if you want to keep your online data away from prying eyes and protect yourself whilst using wireless networks a VPN is a must have!! There are tons of premium VPNs on the market so do some home work and find one that suits your budget and expectations. Like I said before I use AirVPN I haven't had any issues with it yet other than a few lingerings DNS issues that may be linked more so to Windows 10 than the VPN. My plan costs €30 for six months and I have unlimited bandwidth, but like I said do your own research and pick a VPN that suits your needs. Stay away from free services unless you really trust to provider even then be wary.

5) Lock-down Windows 10

Microsoft has more or less given anyone who wants Windows 10 the operating system for free. Now when large multi-nations start giving their products away for free its only natural to ask why. I don't have the answer on this just yet but I am guessing it has something to do with the large amount of access and data their new operating system gives them if a load of options are not turned off. After researching Windows 10 I have altered my privacy settings from on to off as I do not want to share my location, microphone, camera or calendar with Microsoft or any third party applications. The fact that all of these settings are turned on by default is a bit worrying as many non-tech users are unknowingly sharing all of their private information with both Microsoft and third party applications. To turn all of these setting to off navigate to the bottom right of your screen and click on the notification manager. This is the little box that looks like a chat icon. From here select the all settings tab, you can now navigate to privacy and choose what setting you want turned on or off. I recommended turning everything off unless you rely on an application that requires some of these features left on. And next time you get something for free maybe consider what the motive is for such a generous giveaway in an age where data is the new gold.

If you want to read a bit more about Windows 10 and get more indepth advice on how to lock down certain features I suggest reading: How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid's guide


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