Where possible and following applicable guidelines, professionals in many parts of the U.S. have resumed traveling for business, either by plane, train or automobile. Whichever their preferred mode of transport, corporate travelers will likely be toting a data-filled personal or company-issued laptop that makes them a prime target for thieves, seen and unseen. Recognizing the various security risks associated with traveling, the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA) offers these timely (and timeless) tips for keeping laptops and other portable devices–and the sensitive information on them–safe from physical theft and criminal access.
Before you go
: Confirm with your in-house tech team or IT Managed Services Provider that all critical programs and applications, including the operating system and security suite, are fully functional and up to date. Enable the proper controls to ensure your systems automatically receive software patches and updates while you’re on the road. Be sure to password-protect the device and engage privacy and security settings for web services and apps. Before leaving on your trip, you’ll also want to perform a full system backup. This will help you recover your information if the device or access to it is unexpectedly lost.
While you’re away:
Always be aware of your physical surroundings in any public setting. Though many things have changed since the advent of COVID, the motivations of people wanting to steal mobile devices and sensitive data certainly have not. Follow company policies and procedures about using your device in airports, train stations, hotel lobbies and other public places. This guidance may also forbid connecting with the company network over public computers of any kind. Check with your employer or IT specialist just to be sure. To minimize security risk, you could also request an IT-approved wireless hotspot. The NCSA cautions against auto-connecting, especially through remote connectivity and Bluetooth. “Some devices will automatically seek and connect to available wireless networks…and Bluetooth may connect to [nearby] headphones and rental car infotainment systems.” Disabling these features puts you in control and lets you only connect to the devices and networks you want to.
Think twice before posting pictures that show you are away; pack your own cords and chargers, and avoid public charging stations, which crooks can manipulate to pilfer your data. To avoid exposing data to would-be “shoulder surfers” by strategically positioning yourself away from others and always use a screen guard. Just because you’re traveling again doesn’t mean you have to be a sitting duck.