Carrying mobile electronic devices to foreign countries can leave individuals exposed to certain safety and security issues during their travels, including crimes that can range from petty theft to corporate espionage or identity theft. While using password protection on electronic devices and not clicking suspicious links are common tips, the concerns facing travelers and their sensitive information have only increased. Being aware of the specific cyber threats and following some best practices before, during and after a business or leisure trip can help mitigate these risks and protect your sensitive information.
In most countries, travelers should not have an expectation of privacy in internet cafés, airplanes, offices, or other public spaces. All information sent electronically can potentially be intercepted, especially over wireless communications.
Avoid using public and unsecured Wi-Fi networks, where your information is vulnerable to hacking. If you’re relying on free Wi-Fi to get around an unfamiliar place, do a little pre-outing prep: download maps to use “offline” while you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network, for example at your hotel, to use while you’re out and about during the day.
If using a public or insecure Wi-Fi network or computer becomes necessary during your trip, avoid logging into any personal accounts.
Utilize an existing cellphone network with accompanying internet service, if available, to help reduce the need to connect to Wi-Fi networks in country. Travelers should check with their service provider to ensure that cell coverage is possible in the destination.
Consider investing in a personal hot spot; this device grants a secure, private internet connection to its owner. However, this does require a monthly internet service subscription, which makes it great for frequent travelers.
While in country, avoid banking/shopping online, or any other activity that requires personal identification or financial information.
Minimize use of email to send sensitive company or personal information to protect your data.
For social media users – avoid oversharing your location, either by using location sharing services or publishing your location on networking platforms. While you’re at it, turn off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi auto-connect options just in case.
Bringing a laptop? Before traveling, back up the machine to a secure location and then wipe it clean of all sensitive and proprietary information. Then just load the laptop with the documents and programs you’ll truly need on your trip—if any intellectual property is stolen during the trip, the damage will be kept to a minimum.
Use software and difficult passwords/phrases to encrypt any information you do bring with you to a foreign country. While you’re at it, make sure your anti-virus and other malware protections are up to date.
Avoid using non-company computers to login to a secured company network.
Consider using an old smart phone or laptop on your trip rather than any new equipment you might have just in case it is lost or stolen. Don’t have an old phone? Consider buying a pay-as-you-go cell phone for your trip—stay connected without worrying about losing your expensive phone.
Make sure all devices are password protected with a long and complicated pass-phrase; in case of theft, protecting your sensitive information is important to prevent further intellectual property or financial information theft. Also, change your passwords and PINs when traveling as an added layer of protection.
Smart phones are a prime target for petty theft while traveling—they’re small, easy to conceal and easy to pluck out of a back pocket.
While not exactly a mobile device, your wallet is susceptible to high-tech theft in the form of RFID skimming—a scanner that steals credit card information from your wallet/pocket. Keep your finances safe by using an RFID-blocking wallet or purse.
Keep your phones, laptops and other mobile devices secure at all times— keep phones in the front pocket of your pants and laptops in a hotel safe when not in use to minimize theft. Stowing items in your luggage, especially unattended luggage, will leave your personal property vulnerable to theft.
If your phone or laptop is stolen, report it immediately to the local embassy or consulate and make sure to use software to remotely lock down/wipe your device.
Learn more at www.aig.com/travel.