Staying cyber safe while traveling

Whether you are a road warrior for business or a frequent – or even moderate – traveler for leisure, you are at greater risk of falling victim to cybercrimes than people who don’t often venture far from home. But there are things you can do to minimize your risk.

In addition to the now-famous pink ribbons we see everywhere during the month of October, you may be interested to know that the tenth month of the year is also National Cyber Security Awareness Month - NCSAM, if you’re a fan of government acronyms that don’t in any way resemble an actual, pronounceable word.

Sarcasm aside, NCSAM is an annual campaign promoted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “[T]o raise awareness about cybersecurity, provide … tools and resources needed to stay safe online, and increase the resiliency of the Nation in the event of a cyber incident,” according to the DHS website.

While that sounds like it is way above most of our pay grades, there are things we can do to reduce our vulnerability on a personal level – vulnerabilities that, like it or not, are higher for frequent travelers.

LANDESK, an authority on user-centered IT and endpoint security, has compiled a short list of four tips that will help road warriors mitigate the impact of dangerous security exposures and reduce the risk of a cyberattack.

Change your credit cards

If you travel frequently, whether for business or leisure, your credit cards may be more exposed to the dangers of fraud. To ensure that your card number doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, report that your credit card has been stolen, lost or is missing to the credit card issuing company at least annually. This process allows you to receive a new credit card number and invalidates the old one.

This will prevent the risk of credit card information breaches by hotel chains and retailers you may frequent. Hotels and retailers have been among the most commonly breached organizations and as a road warrior, your card number may be among them. By changing your credit card number, the information stolen in these breaches will be useless to the perpetrators.

Don’t trust the Wi-Fi

You never know what or who is observing traffic on a public Wi-Fi or if the connection you are on has been compromised. Public Wi-Fi can be easily hijacked and even hotel Wi-Fi signals may be easily breached. To protect yourself, limit the use of any public wireless environments. When you do go online at the airport, coffee shop or airport, immediately log in to your corporate network before connecting to email or opening your browser. If your employer is security-savvy, using your corporate virtual private network (VPN) will provide an additional layer of encrypted protection from any prying eyes.

Be sure your computer is up to date

Computers that are running older operating environments or applications are at greater risk to security vulnerabilities. If your computer is due for a system upgrade, contact your corporate help desk to request necessary patches and security updates. By keeping your system and your applications current, you can easily prevent known security breaches from penetrating your computer as well as the corporate systems to which it may connect.

Editor's note: Also, be sure your anti-virus software and definitions are up to date before you leave home or office. This is particularly important if using a portable device that lies dormant between trips and isn't regularly updated automatically.

Restrict your privileges

When you are traveling, you may not need access to all of the same applications and resources you use when in the office. Because endpoint systems – such as your laptop, tablet and smartphone – are the easiest way in for most cyberthreats and malware, you should put up your best defense while working on the road.

This may mean that you restrict your use of privileged accounts – any access you may have that could be at an administrator level,

for instance – while working on the go. Your corporate IT department can help. There are solutions they can use that will automate the control of your privilege accounts and application use based on policies including environment context, such as when working outside the corporate network. This can prevent troublesome cyberattacks from penetrating your computer.

Thank you to LANDESK for providing these helpful tips.

Wishing you safe, pleasant and productive travels!

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