With an increasingly mobile and networked workforce, people travelling interstate or overseas for business will often take their laptops and other mobile devices with them.
These devices often contain sensitive business data, and as Lloyd Borrett, security evangelist at AVG (AU/NZ) notes, it is easy for travellers to forget to ensure their security online when making use of free wireless public networks.
“Research shows that free wireless public networks located in airports and other public places are ripe for exploitation by cyber criminals, thus making business and personal data vulnerable to breaches,” he says.
Security settings are an important consideration when embarking on any trip. AVG (AU/NZ) recommends:
- making sure PCs are up-to-date with robust anti-virus or Internet security software that includes a real-time web scanner, firewall and e-mail protection
- ensuring that devices are cleaned of any spyware and malware before every trip and are periodically re-cleaned even during the visit (this will reduce the risks of attacks in unsecure zones); and
- ensuring that the security settings (including firewall settings) on devices are set on high and on maximum prevention.
Many hotels, airports or restaurants offer secure Internet connections, which can reduce the risk of exploitation.
Even still, it is important for travellers to disable any shared folders on mobile devices, as well as avoiding logging onto any financial web sites, or using credit cards to conduct any transactions online wherever possible.
Data on mobile devices can be secured by ensuring:
- laptops and PDAs are protected using hard drive password locking systems
- screen-saver passwords are enabled; and
- that back-ups are made of all work and personal data on devices before an expedition and kept in a safe and secure place.
If a laptop, phone or other portable device is stolen, AVG notes that it is important that the theft is reported to the local police.
Physical theft might ultimately be unavoidable in some cases, but travellers can reduce the risks of data or identity theft by:
- avoiding carrying written copies of passwords, credit card numbers and other PINs, which can easily be lost or stolen and fall into the wrong hands
- using locks, combinations, chains and other devices to avoid theft; and
- avoiding saving any personal data or confidential data on laptops, mobile phones or PDAs so that the information doesn’t fall into the hands of criminals in case of theft.
Borrett also warns travellers to be very careful about who they tell about their travel movements and what they post about it on social media sites, noting that thieves have been known to take advantage of these updates in order to exploit vacant homes or business.
“If you do all of the above, you have an excellent chance of thwarting any would-be cyber criminals or thieves who are looking for easy pickings,” Borrett concludes.
AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips online.