Staying cyber-safe while travelling

There’s an area where people don’t think much about cybersecurity as much as they should: the travel industry. Cyber security is probably one of the last things you are thinking about when travelling and packing their bags for the next business trip, and yet, it’s a thriving industry and a threat that people need to begin paying attention to.

Donald Trump can attest to that: the new President of the US’s hotel chain was definitely subject to a data-breach back in 2016 after Trump International Hotels inadvertently exposed over 70,000 credit card numbers, and it is by no means the first — or last — organisation to fall victim to cybercrime.

But it isn’t just organisations that are being targeted. As society becomes more mobile-focused, individuals become more vulnerable and business travellers who aren’t vigilant are at risk more than others. LifeLock, an identity theft protection business, reports that international travellers are around 1.5 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than those who stay at home.

And as we become more reliant on technology to get us from A to B (I can pay for my flight with my iPhone; board with a flash of my Apple Watch; check into my hotel on my iPad), we become even more vulnerable to having our identities stolen, or our personal data hacked in some way.

Businesses need to continue to let their employees travel, but there are steps to take in order to ensure they do it securely:

Ensure your corporate travel policies provide guidance on how to stay cyber safe when travelling. They very often provide some guidance into how employees can stay “safe,” but will often fail to include helpful tips on what they should avoid if they wish to keep cyber-safe. Make sure your teams take the following precautions where possible:

Do not log on to insecure wi-fi networks (even if in the local McDonalds)

Insecure wi-fi networks can be hacked by a 12-year-old with a laptop, and it’s not something that people tend to give much thought to. Similarly, Bluetooth, enables your device to connect wirelessly with other devices, such as headphones. Turn off your wi-fi and your Bluetooth when you’re not using either to prevent your device automatically connecting.

Do not print off business emails

This might seem extremely obvious, but printing off emails with seemingly innocuous business information means that a would-be hacker has access to your email address, the email address of any person on the email thread, and potentially critical business information. Even if it seems like an innocent email thread, the potential for somebody with a hidden agenda to engage in identity theft is high. On that note…

Use a strong password

Better yet, use a secure password protector like Dashlane or 1Password, both of which encrypt your passwords and ensure they are are — if not unhackable — at least, highly encrypted and therefore, a lot more difficult to hack.

Destroy your boarding pass

Many people leave these lying about but in actual fact your boarding pass contains a lot of information that in the wrong hands can lead to identity theft. It tends to contain at the bare minimum your full name, flight number, the city you departed from, your frequent flyer number, and in some cases, your trip itinerary. Make sure to shred it and dispose of it somewhere safe.

Never use your business log-in on shared computers

Always assume that the next person to use a shared computer could deliberately or inadvertently compromise your company logon credentials and therefore, do untold damage to your business and brand. It is critical that as part of the company onboarding process these simple but effective means of staying safe are adequately communicated to your teams.

Report any and all suspicious activity as soon as you spot it on any of your accounts

While this may seem like overkill, you can never be too careful. The best-case scenario is that you were wrong about the suspicious activity and you end up feeling a little foolish. The worst-case scenario is that you fail to report the activity and end up in a situation that will cost you and your business millions.

There’s a whole suite of tools that should be invested in to keep employees safe as they travel. As a business owner or travel manager, consider using risk management tools like location tracking, emergency messaging and passport and visa control to keep your employees safe.

No matter the size of the business, anyone can be a victim of cyber crime and putting proactive plans into place is crucially important to both the safety of your business, and ultimately the safety of your employees.

David Fastuca, CMO, Travelport Locomote