Smarter Travels with Your Laptop: Security at the Airport and On Your Computer

When you’re traveling, you’ll likely be connecting to public wireless networks, and these are places where viruses and malicious hackers often lurk. Make sure your computer’s antivirus program is up-to-date before you leave for your trip. Also check that your computer’s firewall is active. Both Windows and Macs have built-in firewalls now. On a PC, go to Control Panel/Security Center and click to turn on the firewall if necessary. On a Mac, open System Preferences, click Sharing, select Firewall, and then click Start.

Airport security workers may ask you to turn your computer on to ensure it’s not a hollowed-out shell packed with contraband. So make sure your computer’s battery is fully charged when you get to the screening area. If your computer tends not to start up swiftly, put it into Standby mode before you leave home by clicking Start/Shutdown and choosing Standby. (Mac users, your version is “Sleep”). Standby/Sleep mode drains very little power, and will allow you to start the machine almost instantly when you push the space bar.

X-ray machines at airports won’t wipe out the data on your hard drive, so put your computer on the scanner belt with no worries. But rumors abound about thieves who grab computers when their owners suddenly get stuck in a security line. Thousands upon thousands of people get through security every day without losing their laptops, but just to be safe, try not to place your laptop on the conveyer belt until you’re about to pass through the security scanner, and keep an eye on your machine if you’re delayed in passing through. You can also ask a security guard to hand check your machine rather than putting it through the conveyer.