Secure Data While Traveling
It is a persistent belief that only large and prominent organizations become targets for hackers. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Hackers also often target small and medium-sized businesses because they generally have weaker security practices as well as business relations with larger enterprises. For example, the 2013 data breach that exposed the credit card data of more than 40 million Target accounts began when hackers infiltrated the systems of a separate contractor that Target used to monitor its HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.1
In most small businesses, employees work from a remote location, so it’s important that employees take certain measures to protect the business’s data. The different ways that employees can protect the business data are:
1. Lock Devices Down
Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets come equipped with security settings that will let you lock the device using a PIN number, fingerprint ID, or facial recognition. Do this on every available device you have. While traveling, change the PIN numbers you use regularly. In the event that any of your devices have been misplaced or forgotten, these security measures will be your first line of defense against someone gaining access to the information within your devices.
2. Be Cautious of Public Wi-Fi
The laws and regulations that govern cybersecurity in other locations or even other countries may not be the same as those found in your current working location. Free Wi-Fi access can be very appealing for business travelers, but free or public Wi-Fi is also particularly vulnerable to security issues. Avoid unencrypted Wi-Fi networks; ask your hotel about its security protocol before connecting to the Web. Be extra cautious using internet cafes and free Wi-Fi hotspots. If it is necessary to use a public network, avoid accessing personal accounts or sensitive data while connected to that network.
3. Disable Auto-Connect
Most smart devices have a setting that allows a device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks whenever they are in accessible range. While this is a nice feature to have when used at home, it’s not something that should be used while traveling abroad. Before travel, change this setting so that your smart device and laptop must manually connect to the internet every time you want internet access.
4. Minimize Location Sharing
It’s very common for travelers to update social networking sites as they move about new locations. Some users even use location services to mark the exact area they are in right now. The problem with this type of excessive location sharing is that it creates a security threat at home. By signaling every location the user is visiting, it easier for a criminal to determine the user’s location(s). This then leaves the personal belongings within the user’s home or home areas vulnerable to theft, as criminals are more likely to strike a location when they know it will not be inhabited. Consider limiting the information that is posted online about specific whereabouts to limit these threats to personal property.
5. Install Anti-Virus Protection
This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep personal information, as well as company information, secure while traveling. In addition to using a trusted anti-virus software, make sure that the software is regularly updated as new versions become available.
6. Update Operating Systems
Just like the anti-virus software, one should keep the operating system as updated as possible. This also goes for apps on the devices. Take special care to update apps that are used regularly for financial or personal business.
7. Update Passwords
Prior to traveling, change all the passwords that you used regularly. Similarly, if there is a need to create a PIN for a safe or a security box in a hotel room, make sure it’s unique and not a password that you already use regularly. Don’t skimp on password creation either—a simple numerical sequence is not ideal. Take the time to create something strong and unique that will keep a criminal out of your personal property. Once back at home, you can change all your passwords back to what they were before.
8. Disable Bluetooth Connectivity
Just like most devices’ automatic Wi-Fi connectivity, automatic Bluetooth connections can also present problems. Bluetooth signals can come from anywhere. Therefore, if Bluetooth is left on, nearby criminals can connect to those devices that are Bluetooth-enabled and potentially hack into the device. Keep Bluetooth disabled as much as possible while traveling abroad.
9. Insure Your Data and Devices
Purchasing a digital asset insurance policy allows business owners and managers to fully insure their digital assets at a pre-approved indemnity value against incidents that can result in losing valuable (business-related) data and other digital assets.
10. Encrypt Business Data
As a business owner, one of the most important things anyone can do to protect their business from massive data breaches and financial losses is to invest in complete encryption of the devices and networks. This will help in reducing the security vulnerabilities of business data and also save from potential business losses.
In addition to implementing the aforementioned cybersecurity tips, business owners and employees should always remain vigilant while traveling. Being safe, well-informed, and cautious can greatly reduce your risk of suffering a cyber threat.
- “Target Hackers Broke in Via HVAC Company.” Brian Krebs, krebsonsecurity.com/2014/02/target-hackers-broke-in-via-hvac-company/.