dpa -- It's every notebook computer user's worst nightmare. You go to retrieve your notebook from the last place you left it, only to discover that someone else -- a thief -- has retrieved it for you.
    Financial records, bank and credit card information, personal data, sensitive files, expensive software -- not to mention the notebook computer itself -- can be gone in an instant.
    That means that if you own a notebook computer, theft prevention is your best defense. But just because your notebook computer is personal doesn't mean it will stay that way. So your first step should be to take a hard look at just what information you have stored on your notebook computer and decide whether it belongs there, remembering that at any time it could be exposed to prying eyes.
    Also, be aware of the sensitive information you might have stored inside of document files. Don't leave documents filled with user names and passwords on your notebook's hard driver, for example. And turn off automatic form filling in Web browsers that offer that option. Making it easy for thieves to see which Internet banking sites you use and then to gain access to accounts simply by logging on to them makes no sense.
    If you must carry around personal information on your notebook it's wise to exercise at least a basic level of security in the form of passwords and data encryption.
    Start with the notebook itself. Is it password-protected? Every major operation system in use today provides you with the ability to establish a password in order to gain entry. Use it.
    Also, regarding passwords themselves, be sure not to use the same password for everything. If a thief discovers your widely-used password by inspecting  an  e-mail message or word processing document, can that same one be used to access your online bank account or credit card statement?
    If you have sensitive information contained on your laptop--including data kept in personal finance software, e-mail messages, word processing documents and the like -- take the time to encrypt those files with the tools provided by the software programs themselves.
    If the worst happens and your notebook is stolen, you stand a good chance of beating the odds of ever seeing it again by investing in a notebook retrieval software program. Typically these programs securely and undetectably send out a signal to tracking software run by the security software company. If you report your notebook as lost or stolen, the tracking software can be told to kick into high gear, sending out frequent calls to allow monitoring by Ip address.
    These notebook retrieval services generally come with a yearly fee attached, anywhere from 20 to 50 U.S. dollars. Most boats retrieval rates well above the 70 percent mark. If your notebook contains valuable information and you must carry it around, a notebook retrieval software solution should probaby be hight on your list of must-have items.
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