Skip to Content
red lock against digital background
© Maxkabakov |
Security & privacy

Do this when leaving your device unattended or you could be hacked or worse

With constant network connections and so many bad actors out there, you must always remain vigilant. They’re always looking for ways to get you, and your phone has one vulnerability you probably never thought about. Tap or click here to stop making this simple and dangerous mistake you’re making every day.

Sure, sophisticated hackers can hijack your Wi-Fi, but your privacy and security can be compromised at an even more basic level.

When you’re in public or at work or school and step away from your device, you’re creating an opportunity for hackers, crooks, or simply nosy people with nothing better to do than snoop. As always, prevention is the first step in cybersecurity. Here’s what you need to do to stay safe.

Lock them out

You probably lock your phone when you put it in your pocket without thinking about it, but what about your computer? The same principle applies — always lock your device. Even if you trust the people around you, it doesn’t take more than a passing glance for someone to get all up in your business.

Here are a few ways to keep your devices safe from prying eyes and worse.

Lock down your Windows PC

Windows offers a few ways to lock your desktop or laptop. Note that any applications, files, web pages, or other windows you opened before you locked your computer will remain open while your computer is locked. We’ll get into that, too.

Here are some ways to lock your Windows PC:

  • Hit Windows + L to lock your computer in just one step.
  • Press Ctrl + Alt + Del, then select the Lock option.
  • Click the Start button, then select your user icon and hit Lock.

You can set your computer to automatically lock after a set amount of inactivity:

  • Open Settings and go to Personalization, then select Lock Screen.
  • Click Screen saver settings and select any option (except None) from the Screen saver dropdown menu.
  • Set a time for Windows to wait before locking. A few minutes should be fine.
  • Check the box for On resume, display logon screen.
  • Hit OK.

You can set your PC to lock automatically when you step away from it. Windows uses devices paired with your PC via Bluetooth to help detect when you’re away.

First, you need to pair your device — your phone is a good idea since you shouldn’t leave it unattended at any time. You can find instructions for pairing any device to Windows 10 here and Windows 11 here.

With your phone paired to your computer, here’s how to set your computer to lock when it senses your phone has moved away:

  • Select Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options.
  • Select Dynamic lock, then select the Allow Windows to automatically lock your device when you’re away check box.
  • Take your phone with you when you move away from your PC, and it will automatically lock a minute or so after you’re out of Bluetooth range. Note that Bluetooth range can vary. Do a test run to find the distance where your computer locks.

RELATED: Security tip: 3 dumb mistakes putting you at risk online

Lock down your Mac

Here are some ways to lock your Mac computer:

  • Choose Apple menu > Lock Screen.
  • Use hot corners, which let you take action when moving your mouse pointer to the corner of the screen.
    • Choose Apple menu > System Settings, then click Desktop & Dock.
    • Click Hot Corners and click the pop-up menu for any corner and choose Lock Screen.
    • Click Done. Now when you move your pointer to that corner, your screen will lock.
  • Press Touch ID if it’s available on your Mac or Magic Keyboard.
  • Press the Lock Screen button if it’s available on your Magic Keyboard.

You can set your computer to automatically lock after a set amount of inactivity:

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
  • Click Desktop & Screen SaveScreen Saver.
  • Use the slider to choose a time. 
  • Click Show All to go back to the main System Preferences window.
  • Click Security, then click Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver.
  • Close the System Preferences window.

You can also set your Mac to log out when not in use:

  • Choose Apple menu > System Settings.
  • Click Privacy & Security > Advanced.
  • Turn on Log out automatically after inactivity.
  • Click the Log out after pop-up menu, then choose the amount of time before you’re automatically logged out.

A word on laptop lids

Your laptop will automatically lock by default when you close the lid, but you should get into the habit of locking it first. You may not push the lid all the way down, and locking your computer every time you step away is a good habit.

Portable is too tempting

When it comes to your phone, it should never be left unattended. Anyone can walk by and slip it in their pocket. We know this is obvious, but even a locked phone is still a liability to your privacy and security.

The same goes for laptops and tablets — if you’re at a coffee shop, it’s not the same as at work. Don’t leave them unattended! Needless to say, the same applies to flash drives. You can encrypt them, but the temptation for a crook to take yours is too great.

Keep reading

Privacy how-to: Hide notifications on your phone’s lock screen

Your personal info is all over the internet – 3 ways to remove it

Ask me your digital question!

Navigating the digital world can be intimidating and sometimes downright daunting. Let me help! Reach out today to ask your digital question. You might even be on my show!

Ask Me