Whether you run a small or large business, data that is absolutely necessary to operate a business or confidential data that you are required to handle with care can be stolen – especially if the “environment” changes.
Suppose you normally run a small e-commerce site from your laptop from the comfort of your home. This week, however, you decide to travel to another city. You are, of course, confident nothing will happen. Why would it? You would be using the same laptop, in the same way, with the same anti-virus software. You wouldn’t be using any public computers or devices during your trip. Nothing would go wrong, right?
Unfortunately, it may. There is such a focus on the device itself, on the laptops or smartphones we use, that people often forget about the changed environment. Here are a few tips to protect yourself while travelling and those Excel files you’d be hard pressed without:
1) Backup everything. Simply put, if someone physically steals your laptop while you are waiting for your taxi or resting in a hotel lobby, there is little you can do to retrieve it. Consider saving all your important data on an external hard drive before leaving home or regularly upload this data to an “online” drive (Cloud). Even if you lose the laptop, you will save a week of not “catching up” with all those customers whose data you lost.
2) Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. There is no need here to be so overly cautious that you decline to use public wi-fi in the future, but simply remaining vigilant and a little more wary of anything suspicious happening on your device can be helpful. Take some more care to see whether that “pop-up” software request is indeed legitimate. Don’t click YES automatically.
3) Do not leave a device unattended. This may seem like a repeat of the first point but the emphasis here is on not allowing strangers even a few moments alone with an important device. A hacker’s USB dongle, when directly attached to a laptop, may break the strongest of protections. Even the toughest vaults can be broken into if given good access.
4) Update your Operating and Anti-Virus software daily. After all, you are not home. The number of potential attempts on you are significantly lower there than if you were in a busy terminal or hotel. When you are travelling and using public internet, you are now on the “front-line” where hackers and anti-virus software companies do battle. That security update you may casually leave till the next morning may in fact be the only way to combat a new hacking program released this morning in an international airport.
5) Take only what you need when travelling. Risk can be mitigated but never eliminated. Ask yourself whether it is absolutely necessary to keep all those PDF copies of your bank statements with you on your trip. Whether you actually need to keep that small notepad file with all your online passwords hidden in your C drive? Sometimes a handwritten password list left in your sock drawer may be far more safe.