If you travel for work, you are a target. Let me say that again. If you travel for business, YOU. ARE. A. TARGET. And it’s not just business travelers who are targets. Each year, cyber crime continues to rise and travelers of all types (both business and pleasure travelers) are attractive targets. This is why I’ve created the 7 Cyber Security Travel Tips designed to help you avoid getting hacked while you travel.
What do you get in this article?
You will get seven actionable & practical cyber security travel tips that travelers can start employing right away.
What if I don’t travel for work?
No worries. The cyber security travels tips I offer here apply equally (for the most part) to leisure travelers as well as business travelers. The principles are largely the same. With the cyber security travel tips listed here, travelers of all types will be on their way to protecting themselves during their travels.
What Do I Know about Security?
As a frequent business traveler who has also spent much of my career in and around the cyber security industry I can offer some unique perspectives here.
During my professional career I’ve had the opportunity to help design and implement cyber security solutions for some of the largest law enforcement and fire agencies in the country – all while traveling to and fro across this country.
I’ve extensively published articles on cyber security, participated in cyber security standards creation bodies, and taught cyber security to college students. I also hold a CISSP and a Masters of Science in Information Technology w/ an emphasis in Cyber Security.
Does this make me an expert? Hell no… It’d be foolish for anyone to claim that. But, what I’ve seen, heard or experienced can help you avoid getting hacked on your trip which is exactly why I created this list of Cyber Security Travel Tips.
The Cyber Security Travel Tips
Let’s get to it. This list of 7 cyber security travel tips, when followed correctly, will minimize the chances of you getting hacked while traveling.
Here’s a quick summary before we dive deeper.
- Turn on your local firewall for all devices
- Avoid risky websites
- Be careful w/ public wi-fi
- Whole disk encrypt your devices
- Make sure you use a security mechanism on your phone & laptop
- Get a screen privacy protector for your laptop
- Be careful what you are talking about in public
Bonus Cyber Security Travel Tip: Secure your Frequent Flyer Accounts
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Cyber security travel tips #1: Turn on your local firewall for all devices
Always keep your local firewall on – especially when traveling. You must assume that the network your are connecting to is compromised. Even if the hotel or cafe employs a firewall of their own, assume it’s unsafe and employ your own locally.
Nowadays you can get firewall software for your laptop or phone. In fact, Windows has it’s own local firewall and most antivirus products these days offer something as well.
Get it. Install it. Enable it. Never turn it off!
If it blocks you from something you probably didn’t need to visit it anyways! This is probably the most important cyber security travel tip!
And by the way…I am going to assume you have antivirus installed. I am not not even adding it to the list because it’s a foundational element here…like air. 🙂
Cyber security travel tips #2: Avoid risky websites
Whether you are using your work laptop or personal laptop or even your phone, be careful visiting risky sites.
Often shady websites are infected with malware that can wreak havoc on your device. For example, SecurityWeek reported that there are 18.5 million websites with infected malware. That’s an insane amount of websites that could have nefarious code ready to penetrate your computer.
Watch something on Netflix instead!
And, of course, always have antivirus software installed, up to date and your local firewall on!
Cyber security travel tips #3: Be careful with public
Wi-fi is fairly ubiquitous these days and honestly that’s pretty nice! But you really have to be careful with free wifi.
Make sure the wi-fi you are connecting to at least appears legitimate, and ensure that you have your firewall turned on, antivirus software installed, and whenever possible connect via a VPN before sending any important information. In fact, you may want to consider using the most popular VPN service, NordVPN for this capability.
Travelers can also use services like LogMeIn to securely access remote computers.
Cyber security travel tips #4: Whole disk encrypt your devices
What happens if you lose one of your devices? The last thing you want is for someone to gain access to all of your files – especially if it’s a business laptop or work phone.
Use whole disk encryption to ensure your hard drives are darn near impenetrable.
Whole disk encryption cloaks your hard drive through cryptography making it difficult (although not mathematically impossible) to gain access to your drive without your user name / password, etc.
Pro Tip: Be careful with thumb drives. While thumb drives are incredibly useful, they are also easily lost. Make sure you keep close tabs on them, minimize storing critical files on them long term, and always employ encryption on thumb drives. Lastly, avoid using unknown thumb drives while traveling (e.g. you found one on the plane or in the hotel) – they may have malware on them.
Cyber security travel tips #5: Make sure you use a security authentication mechanism on your phone or laptop
Whether it’s a pin code for your phone or a password for your laptop make sure you have secured access to your devices. And make sure it is a strong password (and make sure it’s not on this list of the most commonly used passwords…lol!).
For your phone, use a pin code or perhaps a biometric security mechanism like fingerprint or face scan. Better yet, employ a two-factor authentication solution like that provided by OKTA.
The key point here is that you need to make sure that something is required to gain access to your devices. They should not be unsecured. You’d hate to lose your phone and have it easy for someone to gain access to it (or your laptop).
While we are at it, don’t share whatever it is with anyone or write it down (your password, pin, etc, are private).
Cyber security travel tips #6: Get a screen privacy protector for your laptop
Working on the plane sounds like a great idea. And if you are like me you are often on the go all day and the plane ride is first chance you have to catch up on email or put the final touches on that presentation you need to give.
I can’t tell you how many “confidential” presentations I’ve seen from people working on their laptop in the row catty corner to mine.
Or how many emails I’ve seen about sensitive stuff (don’t even get me started on the people who look at porn on planes…wth!).
Get a screen privacy protector (like below) which obscures your laptop from prying eyes while you hammer out another email or submit that quote you need to get to the customer. Or even book your next flight.
Cyber security travel tips #7: Be careful what you are talking about in public
I’ve overhead incredibly confidential conversations on airplanes and in coffee shops or hotel lounges. Loud talkers sharing company secrets and strategies. Whenever this occurs I either try to leave the situation or let them know I can hear them. This is just professional courtesy.
I recall one trip where the fellas in front me turned out to be my competitors. They were having a conversation about key deal they were working. I politely let them know I worked for their competitor and they probably didn’t want me to hear what they were talking about.
They were very appreciative! We were all heading to a conference and they should have known that other industry folks would be on the plane with them.
I am also sure to keep my voice down and be aware of my surroundings when having “work” conversations. This is especially important when you work for a publicly traded company.
Bonus Cyber Security Travel Tip: Secure your Frequent Flyer Accounts
Travelers, especially the savvy ones, know how to take advantage of frequent flyer reward programs. They have accounts with airlines, hotels, rental car companies and more. Often these accounts have less than robust security mechanisms in place (Marriott security breach anybody!). Weak passwords may be allowed or not required to be changed (ever, in some cases!).
Be sure to periodically change (and improve, if needed) your passwords on these accounts. I recently saw a post in a Facebook travel group I am a part of where someone’s Frequent Flyer account was hacked and all of their points transferred out. It cost them several hundred dollars.
Final Thoughts on Cyber Security and Travel
The risks have never been greater these days, but avoiding travel is difficult and avoiding things like the internet are impossible.
You might be interested in 9 Travel Safety Tips to help you stay safe on your next trip
By following these cyber security travel tips, you can help minimize the chances of you getting hacked while you are on your business trip (or vacation)!
Thanks for reading and we’d love to hear from you. Join us on social media or leave us a comment, below. We’d love to hear from you.
By the way, if you are interested in more travel tips and travel advice, you might be like these great articles:
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