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Protecting Your Tech on the Go

It's a jungle out there, so be sure to inoculate your tech against burglars, viruses and other cyber threats.

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Think sophisticated hackers and fast-moving worms are the only threats to your laptop? Safeware Insurance reports that thieves walked off with more than 600,000 laptops in 2004. And while the loss of expensive hardware stings, the loss of business data hurts like a habanero.

Burglars, cyber-criminals, viruses, unsecured wireless connections, buggy software--it's a jungle out there. And threats to PDAs and smart-phones are gathering in the bushes. But your data-packed laptop is still where you're most vulnerable.

Vulnerable, but not defenseless. Protecting yourself can mean equipping your laptop with Absolute Software's Computrace LoJack for Laptops, which will attempt to locate your laptop using its IP address. If stolen, Absolute works with the police to recover your computer. Steganos Security Suite 2006 and CyberAngel are tracking alternatives, and they encrypt your data so it can't be accessed if lost.

Do-it-yourself encryption is also available. Windows XP includes encryption capabilities, or you can purchase a third-party application like PGP Desktop Professional 9.0.

Another approach to security--one that will save you time synchronizing files with your desktop--is to carry both your files and programs on a high-capacity USB drive that uses the U3 environment. U3 smart drives let you carry your entire computing work space on a flash drive. Plug one into any PC with an open USB port, and compute away. When you unplug it, there will be no trace you've ever been there.

Of course, your laptop doesn't have to fall into unauthorized hands for your data to be compromised, so invest in a good, all-around security combination like ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 6.0. You need to regularly download its virus updates and Windows patches, since an unpatched, unsecured laptop is one of the easiest ways to compromise an otherwise secure business network.

If you're connecting to the company network remotely, it's best to secure that connection through a VPN. However, this isn't necessary in every situation. For a simpler solution, check out GoToMyPC . It uses an intermediary to let you connect securely to your work PC from any internet-connected computer.

It is extra work and expense to keep your mobile PC secure. But remember, with all these products costing in the $100 range, a few hundred dollars can protect your pricey equipment--and the priceless data it contains.

Liane Cassavoy freelances from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts.