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I will be traveling through Central and South America for about half a year. I have an agreement that I will occasionally work for my company and thus they allowed me to take the laptop from my office. My boss said I "should be careful with the laptop and the stuff I am working on, but it's not that bad if I happen to lose it".

The project is actually not that important and the data on my laptop are not too sensitive - but still I want to be sure that my (and the company's) data stay on the laptop. Despite studying 'Computer Science' (undergraduate) am quite new in Internet Security, so I decided to ask some friends, colleagues and also do some research on the Internet. My findings so far are the following:

a) The data on the laptop should be encrypted so that a snatcher won't be able to extract any information after a successful theft. That's why I used VeraCrypt to encrypt the system drive, hard disk and the flash drive I will be taking with me.

b) I should use a VPN whenever possible so it is harder for any other person in the same network to sniff my traffic. The laptop already has a ready-to-use VPN connection to the company's network, which I will use while working. Moreover, my university offers the possibility to use a VPN to their network, which I will be using when I am online but not working.

c) Use HTTPS/SSL connection whenever possible! That's where it starts to get tricky. When using the browser, this is no problem. But when using my mobile phone, some apps will automatically synchronize and download messages (Telegram, Inbox by Gmail). Are these connections also secure? Or can I secure them by also using a VPN for my mobile? And does Outlook use a secure connection to send and receive mail?

d) Use an up-to-date Anti-Virus/-Malware program. Right now I am using 'Sophos Endpoint Protection' because I got it for free at the university.

Is this basically enough? Does Sophos offer a good protection against a wide variety of malware? Or should I use another Anti-Malware program like (for example) Malwarebytes Anti-Malware?

e) My colleague told me to 'close all the ports' with the firewall. I am not sure what he meant by that or if that's a good idea. But I read that the 'Zonealarm' Free-Firewall does a very good job and is more or less easy to use, even for beginners.

But I am not sure, how I should configure the firewall or if it is possible or necessary to 'close all the ports'? Or is it alright to use the standard Windows firewall?

f) And of course: keep an eye on the laptop so it won't be stolen!

What do you think about those measures? Did I miss something? Am I completely wrong at some point? Any feedback and hints are welcome.

  • Everything seems to be right for me. When your friend says close all ports he's actually refering to the first 1024 ports. Install https everywhere on your browser. Using a virtual machine with NAT connection is an extra care that you should consider if you need to install something and for navigating too. – RF03 Oct 18 '16 at 0:24
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Besides your friend tips consider followings:

1) enable HDD password from bios if supported. As mentioned by thePROgrammer lock boot device from bios.

2) Using a personal firewall you can decide which app can transfer data over internet (per app rules). I recommend Comodo free personal firewall.

3) not all vpns are secure. To be brief, openvpn is a good choice. Especially when using open WiFi for non secure connections consider using VPN.

4) use a security app on smart phone like comodo mobile security which supports antivirus, firewall (root needed), privacy control at good level (better is xprivacy module for xposed installer framework -root needed), remote wipe lets you erase all phone's data by SMS, remote locate and much more.

5) change lock screen time to be short enough when you leave device while logged-in.

6) use OS built-in encryption where sensitive data are stored.

7) use password managers like keepass.

8) when sensitive data should be deleted use secure delete instead of is delete (personally use eraser on Windows) so deleted data cannot be restored.

9) enable 2-step verification where it is possible, like on Gmail.

10) Have a virtual box ready in case there's no choice other than running an unsafe app.

11) harden OS.

12) consider a ransomware disaster, have enough backups of sensitive data, like on Dropbox which supports versioning (one month for free plans). Offline backups via clonezilla is recommended rather than restore points.

After all have a live OS like Ubuntu on a flash drive so if the laptop is stolen you have enough to do your critical work.

  • 1) You probably mean 'ComoDo Firewall', not ComoRo Firewall, right? Is it straightforward and easy to use? And is it possible to basically block all incoming connections until I allow them? 2) Is the protection by the Sophos Endpoint security 'sufficient'? I am really not sure which malware it keeps away or if it's only good against viruses. I've read about Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which is said give a good (additional) protection. But I am not sure, if the two programs counteract or block each other? – BeniEnge Oct 19 '16 at 23:10
  • Sorry for typo. You don't need many av, firewall... for protection. Basically an updated av+firewall is enough. Non of them do the actual job. You do. When a new connection is gonna establish (incoming/outgoing) to some already open port by a personal firewall you notice that and it may be a clue for finding something wrong is happening. Many malware's use a downloader which is clean and downloads them (which may seen clean to av) but why should xyz app download from a.b.c.d. you may investigate a.b.c.d IP address and find it as reported harmful. Etc – Xaqron Oct 20 '16 at 16:25
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All of that info you got from your friends is very true, I have just have a few tips:

You can use proxy and vpn apps on android that will proxy all traffic through (phone traffic).

Lock your boot loader/bios!!

People seem to forget that you can simply boot (live?) another OS, and then modify/delete/view/copy all files (including password storage). It also makes it harder for thieves (somewhat) from making your computer do their bidding.

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If it's at all feasible, you may want to consider using a "burner" phone specifically for the trip and leave your regular mobile device at home. You can find more information about risks associated with mobile devices and international travel in the free NowSecure Incident Response for Android and iOS book found here: https://books.nowsecure.com/mobile-incident-response/en/case-studies/international-travel.html.

Disclosure: I work for NowSecure.

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Adding this to the other excellent suggestions. Also use a privacy filter/screen protector on your laptop, when you use it in public.

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