1. Get an extra gadget

If there is a risk that in the place where you are going, someone can take possession of your smartphone and gain access to personal data, then in such a case it is better to have an additional gadget and take only it with you.

It can be the simplest smartphone with a non-primary, clean account, or even a simple push-button “dialer” — only for voice communication and SMS.

Don’t risk your main smartphone, which you use to pay for purchases, communicate on the Web and keep in touch with colleagues.

2. Encrypt your data

In the case of a laptop, another device in reserve is hardly a convenient option. It is better to take a responsible approach to protecting the data on your main device. The most obvious way, besides using a login password, is to encrypt all data.

If you’re on Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro, there’s a built-in drive encryption tool called BitLocker to help you. In the case of the home version of the system, VeraCrypt will help out. On a Mac, FireVault will help. How to use all this, we told in a separate article.

3. Put passwords on data folders

If you do not want to encrypt the entire disk or its partition, password-protect at least the most important folders so that unauthorized people who have gained access to the device cannot open them. This can be done on both Windows and macOS.

You can also create password-protected folders in Google Photos. On Android, you can password-lock almost any application — AppLocker will help with this. iOS has Folder Lock.

4. Make backups

Regardless of the use of encryption or passwords, you should always back up important data, especially if there is a risk of losing it. Ideally, upload everything to the cloud so that information can be accessed from any device.

There are at least 10 cloud storages worth considering. On laptops, you can use special programs for backup.

5. Get a flash drive with a password

In the context of possible restrictions on the operation of foreign services, it is also important to have a local backup, and not on the device itself, but on a removable media, that is, a flash drive. The data on it can also be encrypted, and in addition, you can also set a password. There are five ways to do this.

6. Use password managers

Passwords on different devices, accounts and services should be complex, and also radically different. This will protect at least part of the data if your smartphone or laptop is hacked.

Remembering all the combinations of characters used is quite difficult, so you should resort to the help of password managers like 1Password or LastPass — there are many options, including free ones.

7. Clean your device of confidential information

If you do not want to encrypt data or do not believe in the reliability of this protection method, it makes sense to simply delete it from your laptop or smartphone after creating a backup.

Check messages, photos, installed applications, documents and other files — get rid of all potentially compromising information.

8. Delete everything from the Recycle Bin permanently

Data you have deleted can be relatively easily recovered using a number of programs, even if you have emptied the Recycle Bin. So when the system warns that objects are being erased «without the possibility of recovery,» it exaggerates a little.

To precisely eliminate the risk of data recovery, use special software that allows you to write some digital garbage over the data deleted from the hard drive.

9. Get rid of biometrics

On laptops with Windows Hello and smartphones, it’s best to opt out of face unlock. This is the least reliable way to protect yourself if someone grabs you and tries to access your data.

Unlocking with a fingerprint is not much better, but a password or PIN will be much more secure.

  • On Windows, it can be set via «Login Options» in Account Settings.
  • On macOS, through System Preferences and Users & Groups, also disabling Touch ID.
  • On Android, in the «Security» settings section.
  • In iOS — «Face ID and passcode», also in the system settings.

10. Lock your device or reset

If you did not have time to encrypt data or set a password, and the risk of gaining unauthorized access to the device is extremely high, you can try to block the gadget by typing several incorrect passwords or PIN codes. First of all, this applies to smartphones.

In case of blocking after unsuccessful login attempts, access to the device will be closed, it will be possible to return it only from another device through your account.

In the most emergency situation, you can reset your smartphone to factory settings. On Android, this is usually done in the «System» section, where you need to click «Reset» and specify what data should be saved. There are separate instructions for iOS and iPadOS.

In the case of a laptop, if you do not have a login password, you are unlikely to be able to do something quickly. But later, remote blocking from another device may come in handy. It is available on both Windows and macOS — you can block it through the iCloud website or in the «Locator» from your smartphone by selecting «Mark as lost».

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