Before you travel is a good time to review your data security practices. Are you bringing your laptop? Is it password-protected and encrypted? If you’re one of the tens of thousands of travelers each year who accidentally leave their laptops behind at airport security, your abandoned data could create major headaches.
Laptop Lost and Found
Exact laptop loss figures are hard to nail down, but during a single month in late 2016, flyers left 70 laptops behind just at Newark Airport. That’s more than two each day at one of the nation’s hundreds of airports.
It’s surprising that many of these pricey laptops are never reclaimed. If you do lose your laptop, act quickly because TSA won’t hold lost gear forever. Contact TSA’s local Lost and Found at your departing airport as soon as possible. The agency will wait at least 30 days to dispose of valuable items including laptops. After the holding period, TSA will wipe data, remove the hard drive or destroy the computer, so don’t delay.
Laptop and Data Protection
There are two easy ways to avoid this sort of loss. First, tape a business card to the bottom of your device. This way, TSA can call you if you leave your laptop behind. Also, check each bin at security before you stack another on top. That’s the most common way laptops are lost, the agency reports.
Protect your data even if you lose your laptop. Both Windows and Mac operating systems offer built-in encryption options which convert your data to unreadable ciphertext. Windows users, you will need Vista, 7 Ultimate, 7 Enterprise, 8.1 Pro, 8.1 Enterprise, or 10 Pro to run Window’s encryption program. Business travelers, if you are using a company computer, you may need to get permission to use an encryption program.
Prevent Laptop Loss and Theft
An ounce of prevention can help you and your laptop stay connected. Keep tabs on your device from the moment you enter the airport. That means taking the bag everywhere you go, including into the restroom.
Here are some other measures you can take:
- Don’t leave the computer in an overhead bin during the flight. Rough skies could toss it around, and you might overlook it when you deboard.
- Password protect your laptop.
- Consider joining TSA Pre-Check, so you won’t be asked to remove your laptop from its bag as you pass through Security.
Finally, watch out for deliberate theft. An article by Corporate Travel Safety details how a team of thieves passing through security can steal pricey computers. First, one passenger watches you put your mobile computer into a bin then passes through screening before you. Next, a second individual creates a temporary holdup or requests assistance so you can’t follow your gear promptly. The first individual then grabs your equipment and walks briskly out of the TSA zone.
That’s how long it takes to steal a laptop—the blink of an eye. Stay alert, so you can avoid the massive chore of replacing all your stolen data.