Are you a cyber target when you travel for business?
Modern technology has allowed us to take our offices on the road when we travel. However, this is a point when our data can be most vulnerable. We are away from our secure, card access only office buildings, firewalled networks and distracted with the stresses of getting from point A to point B at the same time worrying about nailing that presentation that has you on the road in the first place.
While some larger companies enforce guidelines for travelers, many smaller businesses don’t have the IT staff or infrastructure to coordinate and configure our devices for the threats we face in the wild, leaving this task up to the individual.
Whether you’re from a small company or large corporation the same rules apply, here are a few tips to help you protect your devices and data while you travel.
At the Airport
Navigating through airports has become quite the task in the past decade, in particular on a busy day. The most stressful of which is clearing the security checkpoint. This is also the point when your devices are most vulnerable. The most difficult part is keeping an eye on your property is it goes through the x-ray and you are searched by the screener. Pre-plan your trip through the checkpoint. Know the rules, listen to the instructions and most of all pay attention to what is going on around you. The longer you are separated from your property, the higher the chance that it is going to walk away. Also, there are thousands of items simply forgotten at the checkpoint by rushing and distracted travelers. Make sure you have everything before you leave the area.
At the hotel
Many hotels have safes or lock boxes in the rooms. If your laptop and/or tablet fits, lock it up. If this option is not available or too small, most laptops also have a provision for locking the cables, use this to secure your laptop to something in the room such as the desk or bed frame. While not exactly the most reliable, it might be just enough to get a thief to move on to the next room.
Finally, install locator software in the event your device does go missing you have a chance of being able to track it down.
At the very minimum have a passcode on your phone, tablet, and laptop. This is the bare minimum. Use a strong password with multiple upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
Password protect access to your BIOS settings and disable the boot from CD or USB drive options. This will minimize the ability for a would-be thief to access your hard drive through booting into another portable operation system or tool.
Use full disk encryption. Most modern operation systems include this out of the box. Although often times it requires you to activate and configure this feature. Do it.
If you are using portable storage such as a USB drive or external hard drive encrypt those as well. Some full disc encryption utilities also have provisions for encrypting removable devices. If not, there are many utilities out there that will help.
Consider leaving unnecessary data at home. With the size of hard drives these days we have a habit of keeping everything. This can be a problem if your laptop is lost or stolen. It may even be worth having a “travel” laptop that you load only the necessary files onto.
Avoid Public WiFi
Public WiFi is dangerous and can expose you to a wide range of vulnerabilities. If possible, connect through a personal hotspot. Almost all mobile devices today have the ability to tether and if not cell phone providers have dedicated mobile hotspot devices.
Use a Virtual Private Network or VPN
As a general rule, using a VPN is a good idea even with your personal hotspot, but certainly use one if you are required to connect to a public WiFi. The essentially creates an encrypted tunnel for you to transmit your data back and forth. If you are using a VPN Service, make sure to check with the provider when traveling to foreign countries ensure that their service will work.
Before you embark on your journey, backup, backup, backup. In this day and age one would think this is common sense but it is amazing how many of us just don’t do it. If the worst happens and you lose a device, you won’t lose all the data on it and your business can continue to function.
We hope you find this tips useful. It is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have additional tips to share, please add them in our comments section below and safe travels.
Over the past 20+ years, Mike has been involved in numerous aspects of physical security both foreign and domestic for private and commercial clients as well as Local, State and Federal government agencies. Mike has more than 10 years of private sector security consulting experience in project management, high risk security operations, planning, threat, risk and vulnerability assessments (TRVA), maritime security, critical infrastructure protection, as well as the design of CCTV, access control and intrusion detection systems. A veteran US Army Non-Commissioned Officer with almost 11 years of service, Mike has demonstrated leadership and management expertise with proven capacity to perform effectively in a variety of routine and crisis and emergency situations. During his career in the military, Mike served in several positions to include Infantry Squad Leader, Reconnaissance Scout, Sniper, Instructor and Operations NCO with multiple overseas deployments to Northeast and Southeast Asia as well as the Middle East. As a civilian security specialist in Iraq Mike spent almost 2 years on the Coalition Munitions Clearance program providing protection for ordinance disposal personnel as well as remote camp, and convoy security operations.