Laptop Safety PART TWO: Climate Change and Security

By: Lindsay Hogg

It is often recommended not to travel with your laptop or expensive electronic devices. It can be a hassle having to lock these up or hide them in hostels, but if you are like me and can’t live without it, here are things you need to know and precautions you should take. Many of these tips can be applied to general laptop safety, but our main concern here is travelling with your laptop.

Climate Change: Extreme Humidity
When I tell people their laptop can be effected by climate changes, most don’t believe me. It’s not common, but it’s true and it CAN happen. Commercial laptops (which are the common computer owned by the majority),  are not designed to be used in extreme weather conditions. This is mostly in reference to areas of intense humidity such as the Jungle/Rainforest/Amazon (South America). Humidity can effect your keyboard, making keys unusable and your laptop can also grow mold. This mold can lurk it’s way inside, eventually damaging your hard drive. If you have to bring your laptop with you, be prepared. Keep it in a moisture proof case and if you use it in a humid environment, be sure to wipe it down to remove all moisture before placing it back in the case. This does not mean that if you go somewhere humid your laptop is going to break. People use laptops in South America and Asia every day and they are not effected. These precautions can be useful in any area of climate change, but specifically the extreme ones – going on tours in the Jungle/Rainforest/Amazon, where your laptop can spend days sitting in thick humidity.

Security: Protecting Your Personal Information
Although it’s so much easier to save your passwords in your browser, this is never the best choice. Especially when it comes to online banking – which you may be doing a lot of while travelling. Password protect everything important on your computer! This is not only in the case of theft, but also using public WiFi. If you plan to use the internet, make sure you have a firewall and all your security updates installed. You know when your computer prompts you for updates and you always press ‘install later’? Don’t do that. Install them right away! The problem with public WiFi is that anyone can use it. Be aware that almost everything you do or any info that appears on your screen while you’re using a public wireless connection can be seen by others nearby. This being said, be cautious of what you do on the internet while linked to open wireless. Avoid banking and anything else important or personal. If you need to access important information, make sure you are on a secure site (check that the web address begins with https not http). The ‘S’ means information will be safely encrypted for sending and receiving. (NOTE: Sometimes the https switches back to http once you have logged in – keep your eye open for this!)

If you are like me and have major issues creating/remembering all your passwords, here are some tips:

1. Think of a sentence and only use the the first letter of each word in that sentence or song lyric.
EX: I Like To Travel The World: ILTTTW

2. Take out all the vowels from a sentence or song lyric.
EX: I Like To Travel The World: LKTTRVLWRLD

3. Think of a word and use the keys to the left or right of that word on your keyboard, keep in mind it can not include keys on the edge of your keyboard.
EX. BEACH – Can only be keys to the right = NRSVJ
EX. LOVELY – Can only be keys to the left = KICWKT

4. If you NEED to write down your passwords because you will never remember them, do not put them ON your computer. And don’t write them down directly. Give yourself clues to what they are.
EX. My favorite food
Which could be CHICKEN, but that’s not the password, it is every key to the left of that word = XGUJWB

Random Notes:
If you like to watch movies while travelling, you need to know that there are region codes for DVD’s. (This was created to keep movies from being pirated and sold abroad). You CAN change the region code on your computer, but only a limited number of times. If you are in the same location for a long period of time, it would be beneficial to change the region code on your computer. Make sure you do not change it so much that when you get home, you can’t change it back.

Read Laptop Safety PART ONE: Theft and Power

Written by Ross French