Skip to main content

System Status: 

Computer Security for Laptops

Insurance statistics say that one out of every 14 laptops will be stolen. Use this checklist to protect your laptop and wireless devices.

Set up passwords

  • Choose passwords carefully. Read Creating Passwords for tips.
  • Set a boot password, which will be required to start up the computer. If you need help with this, ask your desktop support person.
  • Set a login password, change it regularly, and never use network access default "save password" features.

Note: Thieves can get around the login password, so don't rely on it as the sole piece of security.

Safeguard data

  • Back up key data frequently onto floppy disks, recordable CDs, ZIP disks, or networks.
  • Carry all backup disks separately from the laptop.
  • Keep a minimum of sensitive data (e.g., Social Security number, credit cards, or other personal information) stored on your machine.

Take defensive measures

  • Turn off the computer, or disconnect from the Internet, when you’re not working for long periods.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and a firewall if connecting from off campus. This prevents hackers from getting into your computer or the UC San Diego network.
  • Lock up your Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) card when you’re not using the computer. If you need help with this, ask your desktop support person.

Discourage thieves

These precautions make your laptop less desirable:

  • Labels and tags: Through engraving or an anti-theft security plate, permanently and conspicuously mark the outside of your laptop or wireless device with your name or the University’s. This greatly reduces the computer's value and increases the chances of catching a thief in the act.
  • Alarms: These sound an alarm if the laptop is moved.
  • Cable locks: Use your laptop's Universal Security Slot to attach to a cable and lock and secure it to a stationary, unbreakable object.
  • Docking stations: Affix your laptop to your desktop when you're not traveling.
  • Tracking and recovery programs: If you report your laptop as stolen, the tracking company can detect its location when someone uses it to connect to the Internet.

Use special care in public or while traveling

  • Keep it out of sight. What thieves can’t see, they can’t steal. When you're not using the device, it should be in a locked area.
  • Use a nondescript carrying case. An appropriately padded school bag or backpack will physically protect the laptop as well as conceal it.
  • Remain in physical contact with the laptop at all times, if possible. Stay especially aware when passing through airport security. Never leave it in your car.

Take responsibility

  • You're responsible for the safekeeping of UC San Diego-related data whenever you use the UC San Diego network. Follow the same policies and procedures you would if you were working on campus.
  • Be sure you’re in compliance with security-related policies.

Additional resources

For more information, contact IT Services Security at