By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Laptop computers are some of the best friends an RVer can have. We have more or less instant communication with friends via email, access to our bank accounts and bill-paying services, and a host of information about whatever we might need in our lives as travelers.
But laptops, and other computers, are certainly an attraction to thieves. Here are some tips to help keep your computing experience happy and safe.
Keep your data safe: If you keep sensitive information on your laptop, make sure if your computer falls into the wrong hands that at least the information is secure. If you have Windows XP Professional, you already have a way of encrypting your data to make it impossible to read without the encryption code. Or get data encryption software and use it — you can “search” (e.g., Google or Bing) for more information on this kind of software. When using public Wi-Fi networks, many experts recommend you don’t transmit any sensitive data (including credit card numbers or bank account information) — but if you must, BE SURE the little “padlock” symbol shows on your web browser, and that the URL (address) of the website begins with https (for “secured”).
Use a strong password: Don’t use your name, your kid’s name, dog’s name, etc., as a password. Repeated numbers or letters are a sure-enough “breakable” password. Some folks use a phrase they can remember, like “My dog has fleas,” and string it together without spaces: “Mydoghasfleas” is the resulting password. Using symbols (%@&!) in your password makes it much tougher to break. And of course, the longer the better. Afraid you’ll forget it? Then write it down on paper — just keep the paper safe.
Backup your system: Lost or stolen, your data’s no good if you don’t have it. Use a data backup system — the Windows XP operating system has one. Back up frequently, and back up to something OTHER than your computer. Data files might be backed up to a small “thumb drive,” or the whole hard drive to a backup system — find them at Costco or Sam’s Club inexpensively. And keep that backup drive safe, too. A lost thumb drive with unencrypted information could be an identity thief’s dream.
Guard it: Don’t leave your laptop in the toad car or the RV in plain sight. Hide it in the trunk or stick it in a closet. If you travel on a plane with your laptop, don’t put it in the overhead storage compartment — keep it with you at your seat, right in front of you.