Travel for work? Here’s what you need to know about security for your business
Keeping your business secure is a top priority. But if you travel frequently for work (or spend significant time in remote workspaces), you may be putting your business at risk. Business travelers are particularly vulnerable to security threats because they often travel with sensitive data on multiple devices—making them prime targets for criminals.
Use the following checklist to make sure you and your business stay safe (wherever you are).
Before You Leave
1. Password-Protect Your Data
Passwords and other locking features like two-factor authentication and facial recognition are your first line of defense against a security breach should you lose track of your phone, computer, or other business device.
According to Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, “81 percent of hacking-related breaches leveraged either stolen and/or weak passwords.” So before you jet off on your business trip, make sure all devices (including USBs) have been locked and secured with a strong password or PIN.
2. Clear Your Cache and Remove Saved Passwords
Sure, everyone loves the convenience of auto-saved passwords. But so do cybercriminals.
If a hacker accesses your computer (physically or virtually), cached sites and auto-filled passwords make it easy for them to steal sensitive data. Although a cleared cache means it will take a little longer to load pages and log in, the added security is well worth it.
3. Turn Off Bluetooth and Disable Auto-Connect
Most phones have a setting to automatically connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks throughout the day. But when you’re traveling, you don’t know who else is lurking on those unsecured networks. Save the auto-connect for when you’re at home.
4. Review Security Protocol with IT
You should already have a clear security policy in place for your business. If not, make one.
Before you travel, check in with your IT team to review that protocol and ensure everything is updated—and verify that everyone knows what to do in case of emergency. This is also a good time to review your own devices and work with IT to ensure your data is fully protected.
5. Install a Remote-Activated Security System
Cybersecurity often gets the most scrutiny in the business world, but physical security is just as important. When you travel, you could be leaving your office at risk—you don’t have to work in a big city to be vulnerable to crime.
Keep your brick and mortar safe by installing a security system. Look for features like:
- Video surveillance
- Perimeter detection and alarms
- Building access control (e.g., door codes and ID badges)
Most systems today offer mobile activation and monitoring capabilities, so you can stay aware and in control wherever you are.
On the Road
6. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is notoriously unsecure. Anyone can log on, making it easy for hackers to identify weak entry points.
If you must use Wi-Fi, limit your access to websites that are secured by HTTPS, keeping in mind that HTTPS only encrypts data in transit. Once data reaches the server, it is decrypted and anyone who gains access to the server can access that data. So don’t visit pages that contain sensitive information, like your email or bank account, on a public connection (even if the site looks secure).
7. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to keep your internet data and identity safe while you travel.
VPNs use tunneling, encryption, and authenticated connections to secure your data while you’re online, making it much harder for would-be hackers to snoop on your sensitive business transactions.
8. Use a Privacy Screen
If you’re working in public, it’s important to keep sensitive information private from passersby with wandering eyes. A privacy screen is a polarized sheet of plastic that sticks onto your laptop monitor that limits how visible the screen is from different angles or distances. It’s a simple but effective way to prevent your screen from being visible from those around you.
9. Never Leave Your Property Unattended
At the end of the day, you may be the biggest threat to your business’ security. According to a report by Trend Micro, a staggering 41 percent of data breaches between 2005 and 2015 were the result of lost or stolen devices.
On top of keeping your devices on hand at all times, there are a few ways you can beef up physical security and mitigate potential losses:
- Use a locking bag or briefcase for your sensitive papers and devices
- As noted earlier, lock your devices with password-protected entry
- Take only what you absolutely need.
If you’re only traveling for a few days, limit what you bring along. Travel light, leaving extra devices and business documentation at home and swapping your business laptop for a “clean” loaner computer. This reduces the amount of sensitive data you carry around and makes it easy for your IT team to check for viruses or other tampering on your return.
When You Return
10. Run Security Checks across Devices
Despite your best efforts, it’s always possible your data was compromised on your trip. As soon as you get back, run another security check on your devices for spyware, malware, or viruses.
Working on the road will always bring risks for travelers and their businesses. But you can reduce those risks and mitigate losses by following these 10 simple steps before, during, and after your trips.
Written by: Elaine Thompson
Elaine is a digital journalist with a technical writing background. She currently focuses on all things sustainability and tech, and has a passion for helping small businesses and families succeed in their local communities. Elaine has written for a variety of online publications.