10 steps you can take to secure a laptop

5.Use secure email

Sometimes it can prove difficult to get a VPN connection working, so it's prudent to ensure that any email program, webmail system or cloud based email service that you use is configured to use a secure sockets layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS). This ensures that both your username and password, and the contents of your emails, are encrypted as they travel across the internet.

Webmail services like Gmail and cloud based services like Microsoft's Office 365 are configured in this way by default, but email offered by many internet service providers is not.

6.Protect yourself from other users

For additional protection against malicious users connected to the same business centre or hotel network, connect your laptop though a travel router that plugs in to an Ethernet jack

A travel router such as the TP-Link TL-WR702N acts as a highly effective hardware firewall which helps keep your computer isolated from other users on the network. (Most computers have a software firewall installed, but these can be disabled by viruses and other malicious software.)

7.Check for known vulnerabilities

When you connect your laptop to the internet when travelling, you may not be protected by any security systems your company uses to filter out malicious emails or to keep you from malicious websites. That can result in hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in the software on your computer to infect it with malware.

To reduce the chances of this it is important to check that your computer's operating system and other software has been updated with the latest security patches.

Security company Qualys offers a free service called BrowserCheck that scans your computer and provides links to updates for any software it finds with known security vulnerabilities.

8.Don't lose it in the airport rush

Tens of thousands of laptops are lost in airports every week, and only about one third are ever returned to their owners, according to research carried out by the Ponemon Institute.

One way to avoid leaving your laptop behind when you go through security or get called for your flight is to attach a proximity alarm such as a Kensington Proximo, a Proximity Tag or a Hippih hipKey to your laptop bag.

These inexpensive devices send an alert to your smartphone if they detect that they have moved more than a few metres away from you.

9.Keep your USB sticks secure

If you carry a USB memory stick to make backups of your work or store other data, it's important to make sure that it is as secure as the data on your laptop.

You can do this the same way that you can encrypt a computer hard drive - using TrueCrypt or a version of Microsoft's BitLocker called BitLocker To Go (which is included in some versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.) Once encrypted the memory stick can only be accessed after supplying a password.

An alternative is to use a USB drive with encryption hardware and other security features built in, available from companies like IronKey. Its secure USB drives self-destruct if the wrong password is supplied 10 times in a row, making it all but impossible for a thief to access the data it holds by repeatedly guessing the password.

10. Lock it up

Perhaps the most obvious piece of advice, but one which is frequently ignored, is to make it hard for an opportunistic thief to walk off with your laptop.

One way to do this is by using a Kensington lock - a metal cable which you can loop around a suitable fixed object and which attaches to any laptop equipped with a Kensington slot.

Kensington locks certainly don't provide total security, as the cables can be cut or they can be ripped out of the laptop, but it is enough to make many thieves move on to easier pickings.