President and CEO, Identity Theft Resource Center
When traveling, you might be opening yourself up to new tactics of identity theft without even realizing it. With everything from hotel rooms to public Wi-Fi being a risk, it is important to stay on your toes when you’re away from home – whether for business or leisure. Even the most diligent of people can fall victim to a scam or make the wrong move, which can result in identity theft.
Public internet access
Many people take advantage of free Wi-Fi at the airport, hotel or even at a local café while working remotely or traveling on the job. When joining free Wi-Fi networks, your information is only as safe as the protections enabled by the Wi-Fi owner. It’s important to realize that if you’re compromised while using public Wi-Fi, you’re not only putting any of your personal data in jeopardy, you could be putting your company’s information at risk as well. This could mean private emails, customer details and account information. Joining a well-protected network is a must when traveling. If your company has a virtual private network (VPN) set up, make sure to use it. If your business lacks VPN access, consider establishing one to protect the company’s information, and that of its clients as well as your own private data. In addition, you might consider using a hotspot, which allows you to connect to your smart device’s cellular data instead of using public Wi-Fi, to ensure a safer connection (especially if you have a company-provided mobile phone).
Whether you are staying in five-star accommodations or budget-friendly lodging, always take precaution when storing your belongings. Your work laptop (or portable hard drives) for example, if stolen, could potentially lead to a data breach if it housed sensitive information of employees or clients and ended up in the wrong hands. In addition, passports, tablets, extra money or credit cards, and any other sensitive information should also be securely stored in a hotel safe because you can never be too careful with your data.
Device charging stations
While convenient, it’s important to avoid public charging stations if possible. In a less common variety of identity theft, criminals use public charging stations or power outlets to hack stranger’s devices in a method known as “juice jacking.” This theft occurs when the outlet is hooked up to a computer that hacks the device and steals the information off of it. If you store personal or company information on your phone, laptop or tablet, you might be opening up yourself for risk by plugging into these charging stations that are often found at airports.
Renting a car allows you to travel on your own schedule but it can also expose your information if you are not careful. By using a car’s convenience features to connect your phone or navigate to certain addresses, that information can be stored in the memory of the vehicle. Hackers could gain access to your smartphone’s stored information if the car is compromised. If you use this phone for work, you might be exposing more than just your personal information to hackers. Try to avoid connecting to rental cars through Bluetooth or plugging it into the USB adapter. If you do connect, check the policy for information gathered and how to delete any history before you return your vehicle.
Remember that when you are traveling you not only are responsible for keeping your information safe, but the information of your company, its customers and clients safe as well. Always use best practices and be aware of your surroundings.