10 Cyber Security Tips for Business Travelers
Cyber security for business travelers (or leisure trips too!)is becoming of increasing importance. It’s so easy to have your credit information lifted. It’s said that the average person has erroneous bank charges at least once a year now. I know I just got another letter from my bank stating that one of my cards will be replaced due to a data compromise at a retail location where I made a purchase. Whether it’s protecting your laptop from physically being taken from an unattended hotel room, or guarding your credit card data, or even keeping the information on your smartphone safe, cyber security for business travelers takes diligence and knowledge of hackers’ practices.
Don’t Use Unsecured WiFi
Unsecured WiFi is an open wireless connection to the internet that has no password and is available to anyone who wants to use it, including hackers. Many times, the wireless connection is free allowing business travelers to simply select the network from their laptop, smartphone, or tablet so they may gain access to the internet. However, what many don’t realize is that anyone in the area can use that same network to sniff the WiFi traffic for passwords, login names, credit card numbers, or anything else while it is in transit. WiFi connections are easy to hack, it just takes time and a readily available software called a packet sniffer.
Password Protect Device Hotspots
Your smartphone can be a WiFi Hotspot. That means you can use your cellular data to broadcast a network to other nearby wireless capable electronic devices. But did you know that your hotspot can be detected and used by anyone within 100 feet? Potentially your hotspot can be an unsecured network. That’s why you should always setup a password on the device used to create the hotspot.
Use a RFID Case for Credit and Bank Cards
While I was on the Las Vegas Strip two years ago, one of my travel companion’s credit card was stolen. She didn’t know anything was wrong until her bank called her while we were walking down the Las Vegas strip. We were in Las Vegas, but there had been a charge in Reno, Nevada, then another in Maryland just a few hours later. She still had the card in her possession and had not used it during her trip. Her card had been scanned.
The next time I was in Vegas, as I approached an outdoor escalator I notice a man with a backpack leaning against the trash can at the foot of the escalator. The trash can, and the guy were positioned so that you would most likely walk fairly close to him to get to the escalator. He had a backpack at his feet. A credit card RFID reader can read your cards’ data from about two feet away. There was a stream of pedestrians walking within a few inches of this guy because of his convenient positioning. Ever since my card was lifted in New York city I travel with my cards in a RFID blocking wallet.
Don’t log into anything important using a public computer
Public computers are available in places like hotel business centers, resorts, and public libraries. This is one of the easiest ways to gain access to someone’s account or personal information. Don’t use a public (shared) computer to log into any account, including social media accounts, dating websites, and of course any kind of financial account.
Lock Electronics in the Hotel Safe
When you leave the room lock your electronic devices in the hotel safe. Don’t give cleaning hotel staff or thieves the chance to break in to your room and steal laptop. Call the hotel or look on travel review sites prior to booking and make sure that your hotel has a room safe and that a laptop will fit into it.
Don’t Use Bank Cards at Train Ticket Kiosks
Last year when I was traveling in New York City, my card was swiped. Although I still had the physical card, it was being used at gas stations and restaurants in Long Island. My bank shut down the card and had to open an investigation to get the cash back. Although they only charge about $500 worth of products and services, it could have been much worse. The investigation took about two weeks to complete before my money was restored to my bank account. Use a credit card, rather than a bank card when possible, that ways hackers cannot get at your actual cash.
I’ll never know if it was the ticket machine that swiped my card number or if I had just been scanned. Now, I only use the app to buy my tickets. No more credit cards!
Favor Restaurants that Swipe Credit Cards at the Table
When I traveled to Spain I noticed that all the restaurants bring a portable card reader to the table to swipe your credit card for payment. Restaurants in the United States almost universally take the card away to the point-of-sale terminal. I’d rather have my card in sight, so I know the numbers are not being copied for later use! When you find a restaurant that swipes at the table, then use that establishment Otherwise, go old school and pay cash!
In a hotel, use electrical outlet, not USB charger
It very easy to hack into a smartphone plugged into a USB port charger. A hacker that was in the room before you, can install a $30 device to read your phone’s information. When you use a USB charging port you basically connecting your phone to a data port when the only thing you wanted to so is to charge your phone. This applies to any USB port including those in coffee shops, airports, and conference centers.
Don’t Use Smartphone Charging Kiosks
This applies, paid or free phone charging kiosks. The bit above about not using USB chargers applies to those public charging kiosks too. Although the companies that are operating those kiosks are not hacking your phone they may be recording some of your identifying information. Many phone charging kiosks capture the unique ID of your phone while its charging. It’s use to gather metrics about the kiosk’s use. It can also be used to track your phone form one kiosk to another. Be sure to read the terms of service before using any service such as a charging kiosk.
Turn Device Location Data Off
Whether you realize it or not your location data and WiFi usage are being used to track you. Location sold to advertisers in the form of behaviors and interests. With this information advertisers select who they want to show advertisements to on social media channels, with website banner ads, and with Google AdWords ads. Do you think that checking in on Facebook for your favorite charity is a donation from the kindness of someone’s heart? Guess again, it’s so you can contribute to the wealth of massive data pool coveted by advertisers.
Michelle writes about cyber security as well as how to protect your data online. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers