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Traveling Abroad? How Your Digital Information Can Be Stolen and How To Prevent It!

If you’re travelling with your mobile device, count on it getting hacked.

We’ve written about this important topic before and a recent article in the New York Times  reinforces how important it is to take spy-like precautions even on the most innocuous of trips out of the country.

Since so many people plug their mobile devices into their work laptops or PCs – whether to charge them or not – doing so gives hackers a much easier access point into your secure files. According to the article, “hackers’ preferred modus operandi…is to break into employees’ portable devices and leapfrog into employers’ networks — stealing secrets while leaving nary a trace.”

According to an article on CNN.com, 80 percent of private Wi-Fi networks are open or poorly protected, including those free networks that you detect while sitting in an airport waiting for your flight. Anyone with half an idea of how a computer works can download programs off the Internet and use them to mimic “free” Wi-Fi hotspots. As the article goes on to state, when you’re at the airport seeing so many people on laptops and mobile devices, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between casual users and hackers setting up rogue access points.

Even your Borg-like Bluetooth implant stuck in your ear is easily hacked and accessible. Hackers can use tools tailor-made to Bluetooth technology to get into your mobile device; these tools are widely available on the Internet for free download. Check out this article on HubPages  for some great details on Bluetooth security issues.

Travel to China and Russia are especially opening mobile devices up to scrutiny, according to the New York Times article cited above. Theft of trade secrets is a highly lucrative business, especially in these two countries. Consider the fact that the NYT article quotes Scott Aken, a former FBI agent, as saying, “’…companies don’t realize they’ve been burned until years later when a foreign competitor puts out their very same product – only they’re making it 30 percent cheaper.’”

Here are 10 Steps that you can take to Be more secure while traveling:

  1. Use loaner devices – not personal ones.
  2.  When not using your mobile device, shut it off and physically remove its battery.
  3. If you must travel with a personal mobile device, back up your data and wipe it clean before leaving – and do the same upon your return.
  4. Additionally, if you must travel with it, never connect it to any company-related devices.
  5. Always keep your Bluetooth off if you’re not using it, and when you ARE using it, ensure it is paired only with known devices.
  6. Rename your mobile device(s) to something other than the generic, default name that is assigned to them at the factory. (You can’t imagine how many people do not change their “Admin” username and “Password” password on their wireless routers…)
  7. Ensure your software and hardware (firmware) is all fully updated before traveling.
  8. Use strong passwords that employ numbers, characters, and special characters (like @, #, and so on).
  9. Turn off cookies and autofill functions.
  10. Be careful of what apps you download; delete any that are not important to your trip.

When traveling abroad, it’s up to you to protect yourself and your company from potential hackers, which exist around every corner.  Follow the steps and do what you can to ensure that you won’t be the next victim.

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About Michael Eckenfels

Michael is a writer and instructional designer, having worked in both fields for over a decade. He has had extensive corporate and freelance experience with a variety of business fields, including oil and gas, finance, health care, entertainment, and computer software. Michael is also an actor, having been in a wide variety of stage, series, and films over the last three years.

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