7 online security tips for the business traveler
How to protect yourself and your data while traveling in a digital world
By Deborah Gonzalez, Esq Posted on 28 October 2014
Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. – JRR Tolkien
Did Tolkien know something about how travel would be in our present time (his future) that we did not? Or was he merely reflecting on one of those absolute truths that never change throughout human history: travel can be dangerous?
When transportation was by foot or horse, vulnerability was seen in terms of stamina and speed. (Can you outrun the bandit?) Boats offered ways to cross vast amounts of water space, but storms and raging waves cautioned that "there be dragons." Wheels – whether by wagon, train or cars – brought the elements of speed and weight to a dangerous level as both surpassed human capacity. Airplanes seem to defy gravity, but also rescue when the unfathomable happens.
But these are just the modes of transportation. Travel implies so much more.
When you hit the road, you put yourself in new circumstances – new places, people, cultures, languages and situations. Notice I said "you put yourself," for even when travel is a requirement of your position or job, you ultimately make the decision to undertake a potentially risky endeavor that could cost you your assets, your health, your sanity and even your life. You come back a different person with new experiences that can alter your future – new opportunities for your company, new contacts for references, new knowledge for the future.
You understand that travel always includes an element of risk. But you are also high-tech enabled. You bring your smartphone, tablet, laptop, health sensors and more. These new technologies bring along new risks. Each of these devices offer productivity and efficiency through enhanced mobility and access to important documents and resources via applications and programs specifically designed to assist you in managing your company's complex and multi-leveled strategic goals. But these devices and apps can also become the weak link in security, leading to breaches of data and putting you and your firm in danger of material, financial, legal and physical loss.
Here are my top tips to make sure these losses don't happen to you.
1. Do your homework before you purchase online. Are the sites you are using to make your travel purchases secured? For example are you entering your financial information on a page that has the "https" instead of just the "http" in its url address?
2. Limit who you share your travel plans with. Consider who really needs to know your plans and to what level of detail. Be cautious of what you post on social media regarding your travel plans, including your itinerary, list of activities, dates, purposes or goals of the travel, travelling companions, who you will be meeting with, etc. Using apps like Tripit may help you keep your travel logistics organized, but if you do not set to private, it also publishes all the detailed information regarding your travel plans on your social networks for everyone to see.
3. Prepare your devices for travel. You should only take what you absolutely need to take with you – do you have to take the laptop, the palmtop, the tablet and the phone? Do you have to take any of those devices with all the data they currently have, or can you go with a relatively blank device with data on flash drives or ways to access the data form the company network or cloud?
4. Prepare your data for travel. If you decide you must take sensitive data with you, is it encrypted? Are you using strong passwords or two-factor authentication? Are there other security controls you can put in place, such as a USB key that will only allow access to the contents of your device if it is physically connected?
5. Be cautious with public Wi-Fi. Evil twin networks setup to mimic legitimate networks of hotels, airports and other transportation terminals can be hard to spot if you are not looking. Also, public Wi-Fi can give you free access to the Internet, but can also serve as an access portal for hackers into your device and data. Use secured hubs and if possible private networks. Mobile providers can add this for an additional charge.
6. Be prepared for airport security and custom controls. You may be requested to turn on your device at security and even decrypt your data so security or customs personnel can review it. Make sure to have proof that you brought your equipment into the country and that you did not purchase it in the country to prevent paying additional tariffs, taxes, or fees. Keep track of your devices to prevent malware being installed or a tracking or spying device. Check your devices when they are returned to you if they were out of your purview for any length of time.
7. When you return, run a virus scan. When you get back to home base, do a technology inventory and run anti-virus scans on all your devices including your smartphone and tablet. Run these scans on equipment you left behind as well. Change your passwords for any key accounts as an extra measure.
Elsevier Connect Contributor
Deborah Gonzalez, Esq (@DGOnlineSec) is an attorney and the founder of Law2sm LLC, a legal consulting firm focusing on helping its clients navigate the legal and security issues relating to the new digital and social media world. She is the co-developer of the Socially Legal Audit tool, which helps companies ensure that their online activity is in line with state and federal laws and regulations.
Gonzalez is a sought after speaker, writer, and news commentator. She is the author of two Elsevier books published this fall: Online Security for the Business Traveler and Managing Online Risk: Apps, Mobile, and Social Media Security.