Nothing ruins a business trip like a run-in with a pickpocket, a dash of political turmoil, or the onset of a crippling illness. Seasoned business travelers know the drill: Safeguard your valuables, get your vaccinations, and register with your country’s local embassy. So why do so many obsess over these precautions but ignore the biggest threat of all?
Traveling greatly increases vulnerability to identity theft, phishing, sidejacking, and online fraud. Think about it: You're charging devices at airports, hotels, convention centers, and coffee shops; connecting to open networks; and using shared computers at client sites and elsewhere. You put your passwords, financial data, business transactions, and browsing history out there for the taking.
Oh, and by the way, identity fraud rose 13% in 2011, affecting more than 11.6 million adults in the U.S. alone. That’s nearly 4% of the entire U.S. population.
Now more than ever it's important to be as protective of your virtual identities and data as you are with your physical belongings and welfare. Here’s a checklist for you (and employees) to follow to minimize risk:
Secure your mobile device.
Protect your devices in case they get stolen or hacked. Companies such as avast!, AVG, and Norton provide free, anti-theft solutions that allow you to remotely lock, locate, and erase memory on your mobile devices as well as back up your contacts and set an alert notifying you if your SIM-card has been changed. Install these programs as a safeguard.
Protect your apps and data.
Replacing a lost or stolen smartphone or laptop is bad enough, but often the information stored on the device is worth much more. Secure your software, online browsing shopping, and apps by downloading a product like the one my company created: Hotspot Shield. The software obscures your location, making it difficult for hackers to identify you. We’ve even got a nifty built-in feature for your smartphone that compresses your bandwidth so you can still use your mobile device abroad without having to worry about pesky roaming charges.
Remain vigilant against snoops, sidejackers, and sketchy characters.
From packet sniffing to phishing and sidejacking, identity thieves see an easy target in travelers. You're often more distracted when you’re on the go, and less likely to be taking proper precautions. Keep an eye out for who might be looking over your shoulder, shield your screen from prying eyes--or buy a screen shield--and use a VPN to mask your online session.
Use common sense.
If a network looks sketchy, your browsing session can probably wait. Just like you wouldn’t poke around in an unsavory neighborhood you’re not familiar with, don’t venture into shady waters in the virtual world. Never hand over your personal information to a website that you’re not familiar with, and be sure to check that each page you visit is secure with HTTPS and a lock and key in the address bar.
Even though it’s absent from most travel advisories and to-do lists, implementing mobile and online security is of the utmost importance for anyone taking a trip. Plan ahead the next time you buy a plane ticket, and use online protection.