As COVID restrictions loosen, people are more willing to travel for work and pleasure. In this interconnected world, this often means signing in occasionally to check email or even finish work tasks during that long airport layover.
Unfortunately, remote work, especially when traveling, is often a nightmare for managing IT security on the road. While you may feel that airport Wi-Fi is safe, in reality—it’s anything but! The same technology that keeps us connected also gives the unscrupulous another means to empty our bank accounts and steal our identities.
However, you can keep your devices and data safe while on the road. Here are six tips to work and travel safely with your mobile devices.
Start Airplane Mode Early
Airport Wi-Fi is unrestricted, public, and super convenient. It is also a pool of thousands of individuals logging in at once—creating the perfect opportunity for cybercrimes.
Before you enter the airport, turn off Bluetooth and other remote connection options. Use cellular data rather than public Wi-Fi. For laptops, connect with the hotspot on your cellular devices. This feature allows your computer to connect via your cellular network without the use of Wi-Fi. It is safe and exclusive. Check with your data plan to ensure this option is available to you, and if not, upgrade.
Are there any times appropriate for the airport Wi-Fi network? For work, not really. It is one thing if your child uses it to download music or play games, but if you are sending work emails and reviewing reports, avoid it at all costs. And do not access bank accounts, credit card information, and other sites with personal data while on public Wi-Fi! You may become an identity theft victim if the wrong person intercepts your connection.
Turn Off Sharing
If you have file or printer sharing apps on your electronic devices, turn them off before you go on your trip. Also, if you have automatic log-in for any work apps, log out of them before entering the airport. While these functions are convenient when you consistently log into known Wi-Fi connections, they leave you vulnerable in the IT jungle of public Wi-Fi. These functions also throw the door wide open for cybercriminals to enter your system and access sensitive data.
If you arrive at your hotel room and discover you did not turn off sharing, run antivirus software immediately.
Install Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication (2FA) involves taking two steps to log into essential apps or websites. Typically, it works by first entering your online login credentials, then it sends another level of authentication to another device, usually a passcode or fingerprint request. Once you take this step, you then access your apps.
For example, let’s say you log into your laptop. Once you enter your name and password, the 2FA app on your mobile phone asks that you verify with a fingerprint, voice recognition, or facial recognition. Once you confirm, you can access your resources on the laptop
2FA is effective because it is unlikely that a cybercriminal will have access to two devices at once. Even if they steal your login information, they will not have access to the 2FA app. Many large companies employ this with laptops, even for workers who do not travel and usually work from home on secure networks.
You can also inquire about multi-factor authentication if you feel you need better security measures. Keep in mind that these apps are very complex and only necessary for the most sensitive data. However, if you fear employees making too much use of public Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, airports, and their hotel room, it may offer substantial peace of mind.
Avoid Public USB Ports
You may notice USB ports at airports near seats and installed on restaurant tables. While these ports make tempting chargers for your cell phone and other devices, they are not secure.
USB offers data access and power. Never use these ports for your tablet, cell phone, or computer. Instead, take your charger with you and plug it into a wall socket.
Use Strong Passwords
A strong password is at least 12 characters long and includes letters, numbers, cases, and symbols. It is not your birthday, marriage anniversary date, or kids’ names.
The only problem with strong passwords is they are difficult to remember. Fortunately, there are password manager apps that help you keep them all straight. These apps operate on 2FA, so you do not have to worry about IT security when using them.
Also, speak with your IT professional about encrypting your device’s hard drives before you travel. That way, someone steals it, they cannot access any of the sensitive information. Use a strong password for that encryption. Also, consider installing a security app on another device that allows you to wipe the hard drive remotely.
Lock Up Sensitive Data
Your traveling agents should not be able to access sensitive data on the road without first logging into a VPN (more on that one later.) It should never be on a hard drive and should remain securely behind your company firewall or secure cloud drive. Transportation security agents cannot access cloud data, plus it secures data if someone steals your laptop or other mobile devices.
The best way to protect sensitive data is with a VPN or virtual private network. A VPN is an app that sets up a secure and encrypted connection through public Wi-Fi. Since it is your private tunnel to accessing the Internet, it is nearly hacker-proof and an inexpensive and easy way to use online resources safely. Many people use VPNs whether they access free Wi-Fi or simply a new network, no matter its security precautions.
Retain Professional Support
You will regret a data hack, but you will never regret investing extra in IT security.
Hire an IT consultant to assess online security on stationary and mobile devices. This individual will determine which VPN technology you need and install the required software for 2FA. They may also add antivirus and anti-malware software. Most times, IT security experts also train staff on how to use the software and travel safely.
Also, check your E&O policy to see if it carries coverage for cyber liability. Just as technology changes every day, so do hackers’ strategies. There is always a risk, even when you take the best precautions. It is better to have coverage for these damages than being caught with no backup if the worst happens.
As technology develops, the unfortunate truth is threats to IT security develop with it. As you prepare to work and travel this holiday season, assess your cybersecurity measures now.