Data security: Advise your business travellers!

It will never happen to me. That’s the belief that so many of us business travellers hold when it comes to the area of data security and identity theft, which, if you think about it, can have a far wider impact than other forms of theft that keep us awake at night.

Strange then that we would not spend hours pondering the best backup strategies as we would say to thinking about securing our homes or safeguarding our family.

Especially when one considers the amount of personal information we have to submit when we travel – credit card numbers, email addresses, home addresses, passport details – not to mention confidential business-related information we carry when travelling and the odd Facebook check-in to share our whereabouts and enviable travel experiences.

The modern business traveller is armed to the hilt with smartphones, tablets, laptops and all other manner of devices, and while being connected 24/7 has great benefits for companies, so too does it expose companies to considerable risk.

To illustrate the point, a rather sophisticated and scary case of cyber crime was recently discovered whereby the computers of business travellers staying at top international hotels were hacked and confidential information stolen.

DarkHotel, as the attack has been named, unfortunately managed to go unnoticed for several years and affected travellers when they logged on to the hotel’s Internet service over WiFi or via Ethernet. It is easy for anyone to set up a fake WiFi network and encourage people to connect to it to capture sensitive information.

Companies are starting to cotton on to the risks and are forewarning their travellers to be careful in addition to employing data protection methods such as forbidding travellers to take their work laptops to certain countries.

But keeping your personal and company information safe is your responsibility and, as was the case of DarkHotel, you now have no option but to treat all public Internet access as suspect.

What security measures should you be taking to minimise the possibility of your confidential data being compromised and stolen? Here are some handy tips to get you started:

  • Update your software before travelling to ensure that hackers cannot exploit known vulnerabilities in your software.
  • Avoid public computers at all cost! You have no guarantee of when security updates were done last, what viruses exist on the machine or what kinds of unknown software have been installed by staff and customers over the years.
  • Don’t do anything involving money or entering your credit card details.
  • Use 2-factor authentication for as many online services as possible. This combines something you know like a password with something you have like an SMS message or special app.
  • Back up your data. Yes it’s dull as dishwater, but if your laptop goes AWOL at least you’ll still have access to all your emails. Simply take a portable hard drive with you on your travels and each night, back all your files up, or use a cloud-based service like Carbonite to ensure your information doesn’t disappear if your computer gets swiped.