How to keep your data safe when travelling abroad

Data security
Travel News 25 Apr 2018

We offer up eight cyber security tips to keep corporate travellers safe in the age of technology. 

Almost all corporate travellers rely on WiFi to do work while on the road, be it domestically or internationally. Most simply log on to a free network and then continue browsing webpages or writing emails where they left off without even thinking about how secure the network is. The trouble with doing that, of course, is you are potentially exposing your passwords and other confidential information to hackers around the world.

“Whether you're travelling internationally or domestic, you should always choose the most secure network option available,” says data security expert Roger Grimes.

“Be wary of all free WiFi and Bluetooth connections. Make sure you're connecting only to official WiFi offerings and not fake hacker WiFi access points. Better yet, if you can't be sure you're using the right open WiFi network, use your phone's tethering feature.”

Grimes is a principal security architect at Microsoft, holds more than 40 computer certifications and has authored eight books on computer security. He’s a frequent industry speaker and educator globally. In a recent column for industry journal CSO, he outlined several key things business travellers need to be wary of when it comes to data security on the road.

“These days, all my data is stored in the cloud,” he says. “Before travelling, I delete the local copy after disabling the sync feature, so that there is no data on my laptop in the first place.

“I do all my updates and edits on cloud-based copies when I'm away, and then re-enable the local cache when I return home. Or I use the same method, but take another device that never had the data on it in the first place,” he says.

Major software and computer companies also offer sound advice on what you should do to protect your data when you’re on the road.  Here are some top tips from Norton by Symantec.

1. Lock Devices Down

Lock Devices Down

“Most smart phones, laptops, and tablets come equipped with security settings that will enable you to lock the device using a PIN number or fingerprint ID,” a Norton by Symantec spokesperson says.

“Do this on every available device. While travelling, change the PIN numbers you regularly use.

“In the event that any of your devices have been momentarily misplaced or forgotten, this will be the first line of defense against a security breach.”

2. Be Cautious of Public WiFi

Be Cautious of Public WiFi

“The laws and regulations that govern cyber security in other countries are typically not going to be the same as those found in the US,” the spokesperson says.

“Free WiFi access can be very appealing for business or leisure travellers but is also particularly vulnerable to security issues. Avoid unencrypted WiFi networks; ask your hotel about its security protocol before connecting to the Web.

“Be extra cautious using Internet cafes and free WiFi hotspots; if you must use them, avoid accessing personal accounts or sensitive data while connected to that network.”

3. Disable Auto-Connect

Disabling Auto-Connect

“Most phones in the US have a setting that allows a device to automatically connect to WiFi networks as you pass through them,” a Norton by Symantec spokesperson says.

“While this is a nice feature when used at home, it’s not something you should allow while traveling abroad. Before you travel, change this setting so that your smartphone and laptop must be manually connected each time you access the Web.”

4. Minimise Location Sharing

Minimise Location Sharing

“It’s very common for travellers to update social networking sites as they move about new counties or cities,” a Norton by Symantec spokesperson says. “The problem with this type of excessive sharing is that it creates a security threat at home.

“By signaling your every location, you make it easy for a criminal to determine that you’re not in your hotel room or at your home, leaving your personal belongings within these areas vulnerable to a physical intrusion.

“Limit the information you post online about your specific whereabouts to limit these threats to your personal property.”

5. Install Anti-Virus Protection

Install Anti-Virus Protection

Paid Anti-VIrus Protection Software is one of the "easiest and most effective ways you can keep your personal information, as well as company information, secure while traveling,” the spokesperson says.

“In addition to using a trusted brand of security, make sure that you regularly update this software as new versions become available.”

6. Update Operating Systems

Update Operating Systems

“Just like your anti-virus software, you should keep your operating system as current as possible,” a Norton by Symantec spokesperson says.

“This also goes for apps on your phone; take special care to update apps that you regularly use to conduct financial or personal business.”

7. Update Passwords Regularly and Before Travel

Update Passwords Regularly and Before Travel

“If you plan on travelling, change all of the passwords you regularly use,” the spokesperson says. “Similarly, if you must create a PIN for a safe or security box in a hotel room, make sure it’s unique and not something you commonly use.

“Don’t skimp on password creation either – a numerical sequence is not ideal. “Take the time to create something that will keep a criminal out of your personal property. Once you return home, you can change all the passwords back.”

8. Disable Bluetooth Connectivity

Disable Bluetooth Connectivity

“Just like your phone’s automatic WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity can present problems. Bluetooth signals can come from anywhere,” the spokesperson says. “If your Bluetooth is left on, nearby assailants can connect to your phone and potentially hack into your device. Keep Bluetooth disabled as much as possible while abroad.”

In addition to implementing these eight cyber security tips for travellers it’s recommended that you check out the laws and regulations governing cyber security in each country you visit.

“By remaining vigilant during your business travels, you can greatly reduce your risk of suffering a cyber threat,” the spokesperson says.