Data Security Tips You Need To Know Before Your Next Business Trip
International travel may be part of your regular working routine or it may be a once-in-a-blue-moon detail. As an increasingly common feature in modern work, heading overseas on business can fluctuate between enjoyable excursion and exhausting extended shift – but regardless of your particular travels and attitude to them, all business trips pose a potential data security risk.
According to Locomote, 46% of business travelers work for employers with no clear travel security policies, even though 54% of travel managers identify data security as a key concern. Given that corporate travelers are more likely than most to suffer identity theft while on the move, their fears are not misplaced.
With the ABTA describing hackers as ‘the new pickpockets’ when it comes to security concerns in the travel industry, it’s worth brushing up on some simple ways to ensure you don’t become a victim.
Be wary of Wi-Fi
Free public Wi-Fi can feel like a lifesaver while you’re away, sometimes faster than a mobile data connection and without any of the potential added roaming costs. However, public Wi-Fi use comes with a serious element of risk.
Unlike private connections, public Wi-Fi doesn’t ordinarily use encryption, meaning that other people using that network could find it easy to intercept the data you’re transferring and read it. Whether that’s bank details, confidential client information or simply business files you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, the threat of hacking shouldn’t be underestimated.
As well as disabling auto-connect to stop your devices from connecting to networks that are at best unsecured, and at worst outright scam connections, protect yourself on public internet by using a VPN to connect. A VPN – Virtual Private Network – encrypts your connection to the web, effectively turning a public network into a private one, as the name suggests. This means that if anyone tries to intercept your data, all they’ll see are encryption keys, which are practically impossible to decipher.
Only carry data necessities
Just as it’s good to pack light in terms of clothing and travel accessories, you should aim to pack light in terms of data. Think about all of the information that’s stored on your devices – do you need all of it while you’re away? Is there anything you could leave at home?
Important data and documents that aren’t needed can be stored on office computers or other devices that are staying put, such as an external hard drive. That way if your travel device is lost, stolen or outright hacked over an unsecured network, the amount of potential damage that can be done is reduced. Rather than potentially gaining access to 100% of your files and data, the risk can be minimized to only what was necessary for that particular trip.
Update software before you travel
There are a few basic housekeeping tasks you can do with your devices before you set off, but updating your everyday software and antivirus software should definitely be on the list. Many web exploits look for outdated software, which can contain unfixed security flaws that are resolved in newer updates.
Ensuring that your system is running on the latest software version subtracts some of the potential for hackers to exploit gaps in your security, but this should be done in conjunction with at least a basic antivirus package that is also fully updated.
Antivirus software can help by flagging suspicious emails, blocking malicious connection attempts and warning you about risky websites and connections. It can also isolate and remove malware files, and remind you to update passwords to secure combinations.
For additional security, use 2-factor authentication to add another layer of protection to your online accounts and specific file encryption to protect particularly valuable data.
Think twice about your out of office message
While it’s important to let people know that you’re likely to be slow in responding while you’re working away, and to offer an alternative point of contact, leaving too much detail in an out of office message can mean a risk that criminals get hold of the very details they need to impersonate you online – or spot windows of opportunity to take over your accounts.
Clients and colleagues who need to know about your absence and any changes in communications should be notified before you depart. And rather than auto-sending your co-worker’s email addresses out to anyone who gets in touch, arrange for a colleague you trust to check in on your emails each day in case they need to respond to inquiries. Alternatively, offer a generic email address rather than a specific person.
Mailing out information such as the length of time you expect to be away, where you are or who else to contact makes it much easier for these details to be used to create a spear-phishing attack, among other things.
Physical security for digital valuables
As well as cyber security, there are physical measures any business traveler should take to keep things as safe as possible. It’s recommended that you pack devices in your hand luggage rather than in the hold, so that you aren’t separated and there is less risk of something being stolen or lost in transit. Likewise, if you need to leave devices at your accommodation while heading out for dinner or to see the local area, be sure to lock them away in the hotel safe.
If you’re likely to be working in airport lounges, on the train or in any other public area, invest in a privacy screen filter to stop people around you being able to easily see what’s happening on your screen. And if you suspect that your device has been compromised, power it down immediately and get in touch with your company to find out how best to proceed.
By following a few easy steps to protect your device and its contents, you make yourself a much more difficult target for cyber criminals. From securing public Wi-Fi with a VPN to updating your system and antivirus, basic security only takes minutes to organize and can be the difference between a faultless trip and a business travel nightmare.
Guest Post Written By: Tabby Farrar, Outreach Specialist and freelance copywriter
See Related: Internet and Data Security Tips for Travelers
Business Travel Life
Business Travel Life is an online resource supporting the road warrior lifestyle. We give business travelers the tools they need to maintain their wellness and productivity when traveling. The topics we cover include business travel tips, travel workouts, healthy travel hacks, travel products, general travel tips, and industry trends. Our goal is to make business travel a healthier experience – and to make healthy travel practices more accessible to all road warriors.