In daily business, you use strong passwords, change them often, update your anti-virus software and use common sense to protect yourself from malicious attacks that could harm your home computer.  But what else can you do when you travel?

When you are traveling, you are unaware of many types of threats, how can you keep your communications gear safe when you are not in the office or your own home?  According to a recent report, loses related to cybercrime is projected to exceed $6 trillion by 2021.  This includes phishing schemes, malware, ransomware attacks and cyber invasions.

To increase cyber security and safety while traveling, experts offer the following advice to travelers:

  • Have a digital safety mindset - While traveling, especially in a foreign country, it is generally safe to assume that criminals could be targeting your private information and monitoring your online behavior. While this may not always be the case, it will make you more aware of what you are doing on your phone or your computer.  Authorities will rarely confront a traveler regarding their online behavior, but you should still protect your privacy and prevent the compromise of any sensitive information.
  • Research your destination - Conditions can range widely in terms of privacy of electronic communication. In some countries, comments made on social media can result in fines, arrests or additional questioning or scrutiny during customs screening.  It is always safer to avoid making any political, social, religious or other controversial comments online while traveling and, in some cases, even before travel.  For international travel, consider using a “Clean” computer and not taking your phone or computer that you use every day for business.
  • Understand your unique risk profile - For instance, if your work is in the area of government or defense contracting, you may be more susceptible to monitoring or hacking attempts by competitors and foreign cyber actors. You may need to take more precautions and be careful leaving your gear unlocked or unattended anywhere.
  • Update your electronics - Phishing attacks are getting more and more sophisticated. Ensure virus detection software is present and up to date on all devices, including Windows-based smartphones and tablets.   Remember, cell phones are even easier to attack than computers as they have fewer built-in defenses.  Cyber professionals want travelers think about cybersecurity this way: “Would you leave your Social Security card out on the seat next to you?”  Erase all unneeded documents and personal photos from devices before travel.  Delete apps that might include personal information, banking and healthcare are both targets for hackers.  Begin using a “secure deletion” program or utilize the “secure empty trash” feature on a MAC.  Remember, even if data is deleted using the recycle bin, it can still be retrieved.  It is always a good practice to clear your browser history regularly.
  • Password protect all devices - Utilize a different password for each electronic device. Consider storing all work files in an encrypted container located on a removable storage device that is secured when not in use, or store data on the cloud rather than on your device.  There are apps that equip your browser to automatically use HTTPS (S indicates secure) rather than HTTP.
  • Consider using Two-Factor Authentication - Two-Factor Authentication is more secure because it requires a knowledge factor (a password) and a possession factor (something the user has or receives). For travelers, this could be a time-sensitive code delivered by SMS or a code generated by an authenticator application or a fob.
  • Maintain a low electronic footprint - Limit or avoid social media activity while in-country, which can reveal personal information, location and other sensitive information. Maintain private settings on all profiles.  Some experts even suggest temporarily deleting social media apps from your phone.  Ensure location tracking mechanisms on your phone are disabled.
  • Maintain control over electronics - To the greatest extent possible, maintain control over all electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) by keeping them with you at all times. If this is not practical, use the hotel room safe to store electronic devices.
  • Use your cell phone “Hot spot” feature.
  • Do not connect to public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks at airports, train stations and other public areas. Wi-Fi connections are easily monitored or hacked by third parties. If wireless connectivity is essential, utilize a virtual private network (VPN) and do not conduct sensitive business, such as on-line banking or bill payment while traveling.
  • Less email is better - Do not send any emails while overseas on any private or personal issues that can wait until you are home. Alert friends, co-workers and family of your trip before you leave and make sure they do not send you any sensitive information while you are traveling.  Always beware of unknown flash drives.  Never plug an unknown USB flash drive into your computer or other device.  Do not charge a phone or other device with a USB unless it is yours and connected directly to an electric outlet.
  • Avoid outlets in public places - Consider an external battery charger so you do not have to connect your device to outlets. There are portable battery chargers that provide 15 hours of power to laptops and cell phones.

Business and personal travel should not prevent you from staying in-touch with co-workers, family and friends.  Remember your voice/volume and avoid talking about sensitive issues out-loud too.  Many security breaches and business problems have been caused by talking too much.  The guy in the next seat really does not want to hear your life story, but he may be interested to learn some confidential business intelligence, if you are unaware of your surroundings.

Red Sky Alliance is in New Boston, NH USA and is a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence Service organization.  For questions, comments or assistance, please contact the office directly at 888-RED-XRAY or (888)-733-9729, or email feedback@wapacklabs.com   


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