- Traveling with connected devices could open you up to data breaches or cyberattacks.
- It’s important to take protective steps before traveling with your devices.
- Failure to take the proper cybersecurity measures when traveling could put your entire business at risk.
- This article is for business owners and professionals who plan to travel with connected devices like laptops, smartphones or tablets.
In the office or at home, you may be protected from online threats thanks to a robust cybersecurity solution for your internal network. But what about when you’re on a trip? You won’t be protected by your office’s network security, and must depend on hotel and conference center Wi-Fi, which aren’t always safe. Using your mobile devices on the go increases your risk of being exposed to online threats – hackers are always looking for opportunities to infect mobile devices and use them to gain access to the greater network.
When on a business trip and constantly using your mobile device for work, you need to be wary that you’re more at risk of attack. There are certain best practices that all employees should follow when traveling with your work devices.
Editor’s note: Looking for the right mobile device management solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
How to configure your devices for travel
These are some cybersecurity musts when traveling with your connected devices.
1. Password-lock your devices.
Always make sure your devices are locked and password-protected. Should your device be lost or stolen, your first line of defense is a strong password. Even simple storage devices like your USB thumb drive should have a password.
2. Enable 2FA or MFA.
If possible, enable two-factor or multifactor authentication on your devices. On top of a password, use a credential system that requires you to insert an unlocking USB device or a biometric lock, assuming that’s a feature on the device.
3. Encrypt your data.
If you’re traveling with sensitive data on your laptop, it’s best to fully encrypt your device with disk encryption software. This locks your data behind more authentication factors and encrypts it, so if it falls into the wrong hands, they can’t strong-arm their way through to the disk. The data is scrambled and impossible to decipher without the password.
Ideally, you shouldn’t store sensitive data on your device. Instead, access it through the cloud over an encrypted connection such as a cloud access security broker (CASB).
“Don’t store sensitive work data on a mobile device, period,” said Mendy Newman, vice president of cybersecurity product management for Ericom Software. “Mobile devices can easily fall into the wrong hands, where they are subject to tampering by sophisticated cybercriminals who are only too happy to sell that data to the highest bidder. Instead, data should remain securely within the corporate data center and accessed remotely over an encrypted connection that protects the session from prying eyes, even when using public Wi-Fi.”
4. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth auto-connect.
A feature on many laptops and mobile phones is an auto-connect option for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Make sure this is off, as you don’t want to auto-connect to just any Wi-Fi connection you pass. Most public Wi-Fi connections are unsecured, and some can be set up for malicious purposes to gain access or download malware to your device.
Tip: Before traveling, back up your sensitive or critical information on an external device or to the cloud, and make sure you have the latest version of all of your software applications.
Mobile device management
If you have multiple employees who frequently travel with devices, a mobile device management solution (MDM) can help you keep track of those devices and make sure they remain secure. Most solutions include features to keep onboarded devices safe from unauthorized usage, access to work-related data and networks.
These solutions can give you remote control and monitoring of your devices, allow you to enforce certain policies on devices, and can even impose certain controls for employees’ personal devices used for work by segregating company data and personal data.
These remote features allow you to keep a log of where the device has been used and every time it’s accessed. If the device becomes lost or stolen, you’ll know where the device has last been used and if there was a failed login attempt. You can also remotely lock the device or even wipe the data from the device if it’s especially sensitive.
VPNs for added protection
Using public, unsecured Wi-Fi is risky and not recommended. While traveling, you may depend on free Wi-Fi offered at restaurants and other places, but it is generally a bad idea to connect with your work device to any open, unlocked Wi-Fi.
For one thing, other users on that network may be eavesdropping on your activity. In some cases, the entire Wi-Fi network is set up by would-be identity thieves and cybercriminals looking to skim data from unsuspecting travelers. In other situations, it would be prudent to conceal your activity from oppressive or meddling government organizations that may be looking to gain an unfair advantage for local competitors.
How does a VPN work?
When traveling, make an investment in setting up a virtual private network (VPN) service on your computer. A VPN is a service through an app or browser that acts like a proxy server, creating an encrypted connection between your device and your work’s network.
A VPN works in two ways. First, it encrypts your data into so much gibberish while it is in transit online and then translates it back on the other side. Second, the VPN funnels your data through a server somewhere else, masking your location. Using a VPN makes connecting to the hotel Wi-Fi so much safer.
The encryption of a VPN prevents your sensitive data from being snatched by bad actors. The location masking protects you from local cyberthieves and eavesdroppers, and allows you to access websites that may be blocked by the local government. This becomes important when traveling to countries with repressive governments, many of which block social media and other sites they feel that dissidents can use for organizing or exchanging information.
“VPNs are the ideal cybersecurity tool for remote and traveling workforces,” said Keri Lindenmuth, marketing manager for tech consulting company KDG. “They encrypt data in transit, meaning any files or data transferred between a remote employee and team members at the main office can’t be seen or stolen by third parties.”
Even if your connection to your company network or cloud service is intercepted by hackers, it will be scrambled and unusable.
Tip: Provide strong antivirus, antispam, and personal firewall protection to your remote users, and require them to use it to prevent viruses and malware from spreading throughout your LAN via the VPN.
How much does a VPN cost?
VPNs are services, and they charge a monthly fee usually ranging from $4.95 to $12.95 per month – depending on how many devices are simultaneously connected. Some VPN providers have free versions with limitations such as the amount of data that can be sent per month, while other providers offer free trials of their paid VPNs. Still others require you to pay upfront but offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are dissatisfied.
Top VPN providers
At Business News Daily, we have done the work of checking out VPN providers. Here are some of our reviews of the best VPNs.
- ExpressVPN: With more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries, this company is sure to have a server near you. It uses a protocol that provides plenty of speed, especially on downloads. Read our review of ExpressVPN here.
- NordVPN: NordVPN uses a double VPN along with obfuscated servers to give you extra privacy, even in countries that restrict the use of private networks. They have a huge network of over 5,300 servers and have been certified by Price Waterhouse Cooper as not keeping logs. Read our NordVPN review here.
- IPVanish VPN: IPVanish has affordable rates with an annual plan starting at $2.40 per month. It is also one of the only VPN services to give you coverage for unlimited devices with a subscription. Read our IPVanish VPN review here.
- PureVPN: This VPN service works with multiple protocols such as PPTP, IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN (TCP and UDP) and SSTP. It also has an option to specify an IP address in the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, France or Germany. Read our PureVPN review here.
Jennifer Dublino contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.