People often overlook backups of their personal computers and by the time they lose files they go around in panic trying to come back to normal (to avoid that March 31st is the World Backup Day – to remind people at least once a year to backup their documents). But if you are a business user, an executive, you cannot just offload everything to IT and go on with your heart’s desire. Not only you have corporate responsibilities but also there are tasks you need to take care of yourself. Here is my collection of tips from the field, from my interactions with the traveling business users.
Backup first. The importance of having regular backups has been voiced by pretty much everybody and I will emphasize it once again. Have regular backups. Just purchase a small, USB drive and keep it connected to your computer and setup backup from Windows or Time Machine if you are a Mac user. If you don’t want to be bothered, have an IT staff do it for you. Whatever the case, do it. In a business travel you can find your laptop dead, you can replace it with an ordinary laptop to keep it going through your travel but you may not be able to find and access your files. That will make your laptop purchase useless and your trip pretty much inefficient at best.
Yes, this looks very convenient. But do you know to where does the charging cable connect to?
Speaking of the laptops, many executives do not shut down their equipment. The snob phrase “I cannot wait the time it takes to boot” is the explanation they give because frankly they are not informed about the risks that come with just closing the lid of the notebook. The equipments have USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt ports which provide connection to the device and these ports do not have any idea of security. They are simply not designed that way. So, when you close the lid of your laptop and go out to lunch, a big USB device can be plugged in and copy your drive’s contents. Coming back, you will not see anything wrong but God knows what has been put or copied from your laptop. The same goes for the tablets and mobile phones as well. When you will not be using it, shut your equipment down. At least they will need a password to boot it.
In all your systems make sure you are using encryption. I do agree that it is one another password entry during boot and very little performance loss, but considering the protection it offers in case of a loss or theft, it is priceless. You would not want to be the executive of an insurance company that had his laptop stolen and some thousands of customer data is compromised. You probably won’t and that is the reason why you need to encrypt all the corporate data in all your devices, from your laptop to your tablet, from your corporate mobile to your backup disk, you should encrypt everything. And yes, not just the folders, entire physical drives.
Speaking of external disks, there is an often unforgotten issue: keeping the backup wherever you go. This doesn’t sound an issue at first, but imagine that your laptop bag is gone and you have your backup disk in that bag. Yes, you should normally keep your backup disk somewhere else. I would suggest you to keep it in your hotel room’s safe. You may argue the level of security hotel safes provide; and to be frank, considering Jim Sticky can open a hotel room safe with a pocket knife and paper clip, I cannot argue that the safes are “safe.” Balancing both thoughts, whether the hotel room safe is safe against the loss of both computer and backup, I find it more common sense to store the backup disk locked in the hotel room safe. If it’s not stolen, you will have your backups and even if they steal it the disks will be encrypted and no information can be recovered (we just agreed on using encryption, yes?)
Aside from unauthorized physical access, there is the access from the network. When travelling, make sure that your firewall blocks as many connection requests as possible. If you do not have the technical knowledge about firewalls, ask your IT staff to configure the firewall as securely as they can.
During your travels, when you are connected to any network – hotel’s, customer’s, café’s – enable VPN as the first thing. A VPN connection may be a little bit slower compared to a non-VPN one, but since all of your data will go through the VPN and since it is encrypted by default, you will not risk compromising your information. Speaking from a strict security perspective, anyone could bring forth their arguments for and against VPN connections, but ultimately every one of them will agree that it is way more secure than a plain connection to the hotel’s network.
When you are connected, make sure that you block connection requests as much as possible and avoid using active content in the websites you don’t fully trust. That means, firing up a small Flash game and passing some time on your notebook may sound fine, but it certainly is not a good idea from a security perspective. The same goes for the Java and ActiveX content as well.
To avoid getting caught, use a powerbank or carry a spare battery in your bag.
This is the list of the most basic safety tips. Do you have anything to add? Do not hesitate and leave comments!