Traveling for Work? Take these steps to ensure your laptop – and work – are safe.

Roughly one million Americans travel every day for work. When you consider that a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds and 86 percent of organizations have had an employee’s laptop stolen, keeping the computer safe and secure when traveling is a significant issue. 

A 2018 Kensington study found that if your laptop is stolen, the total cost to your employer is around $50K, including downtime, management, and supporting costs 

This figure increases exponentially if your protected data is compromised due to the costs of associated fines and corrective actions, which can reach millions of dollars.   

Many times, employees tend to change their behavior when traveling and become laxer rather than tightening their security measures. People leave their laptops with strangers, connect to insecure Wi-Fi networks without the proper scrutiny, and make it easy for criminals to target their assets and data.  

Adhering to the following travel tips, and creating more secure laptop security practices, can help minimize your risk of data breaches and asset loss, and ensure that you can keep working while out of the office.   

woman using laptop

Laptop Security Practices: Your Physical Devices

If you’ve taken care of the preparation for your travel by limiting your data exposure, you’re still at risk for device theft or exposure of the data you take with you. Follow physical security best practices to make you less of a target and drastically reduce your risk of being on the road without any way to work.   

  1. Always keep your devices on your person. This rule seems obvious, but theft happens quickly if you leave your laptop alone for a moment to go to the bathroom or step away to take a call.  Just recently, a man was working on his laptop at a Starbucks in downtown Oakland, California, and thieves walked up to him in the coffee shop and ran away with his laptop. The victim chased the thieves and was killed by them when he was run down as they fled.  
  2. Don’t share your computer with others. A nosy person can read emails and collect information while a competent hacker might only need a minute to exfiltrate all of your private data without your knowledge.  
  3. Avoid using any devices that you find. A USB key can contain scripts that could steal information from your computer or damage the hardware. Even peripheral devices, like a mouse, can contain key loggers. Recently, a Trust wave experiment “lost” five drives containing unknown monitoring software, and two victims unknowingly opened the drives. The only way to ensure that you aren’t giving criminals a direct line into your computer is to not plug into any foreign device.     
  4. Lock up your devices. Consider using a security cable lock if you do have to leave your laptop in one location for any amount of time. And, at your hotel, use the in-room safe or, if it isn’t large enough, ask the front desk to put it in their safe. 

Laptop Security Practices: Surfing Safely When Traveling

You should be particularly diligent when it comes to following safe networking habits. Cybercriminals can utilize a wide assortment of attacks, such as malware and man-in-the-middle tactics, to infiltrate your computer and
steal data.
   

  1. Connect to known networks ONLY. It’s easy for a third party to spoof a known SSID and read data from anybody who unwittingly connects.  Ask for the exact spelling of the network name before connecting to any public Wi-Fi, as you find in a coffee shop, store, lounge, or library.    
  2. Use a VPN when browsing on a public network. A VPN adds an essential layer of security by encrypting your data as you send it, masking your IP address, and making it much more difficult for other users of the public network to collect your information.   
  3. Follow safe browsing practices. Avoid using your work computer for personal use. Utilize HTTPS websites instead of HTTP (the S stands for secure). And, don’t click on links in emails from people you don’t know. Basic, yes, critically important when not working from the office, emphatically, yes. 

Start to build better laptop security practices by looking at your calendar now and planning for your next trip. Refer back to this article or share it with an administrator who helps you prep for travel. Your proactive steps will not only adhere closer to your company’s policies but mitigate your personal risk of data breaches and asset loss when traveling.   

How robust are your device security practices? 

If your organization needs to put more robust device security practices in place and educate employees on how best to protect assets and data while on the road, Contact Us.

CyLumena - Roman Cano

Insight Contributor:

Roman Cano, Consultant 

Roman Cano is a cybersecurity consulting professional with experience in developing and implementing automation solutions along a variety of corporate spaces.  Roman is certified in both RPA and UiPath and has also helped clients by generating process documentation, handling test scripts, and reviewing their environmental setups.  

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