It’s finally spring which means it’s time to take a well-deserved vacation to your spring break destination of choice. Although it would be ideal to completely unplug during your getaway, many of us don’t feel completely comfortable taking several full days away from the work we’re passionate about.
Fortunately, advances in online connectivity and portable devices have made it easy to pick up our work and take it on the road with us. However, the one thing these devices and connectivity solutions haven’t done on their own is find a way to make sure the personal information we store on them and send through them is completely protected from online thieves who target travelers.
If you’re heading out of town to celebrate the seasonal change, here are six essential security measures you should take to protect your device(s) and your information while you work remotely.
1. Invest in a laptop lock
As you travel, you’ll likely leave your laptop behind in your room as you head out for the day or maybe even in your luggage as you board your flight. Although it’s probably safer to leave it in a secure spot while you enjoy a few activities on your vacation, leaving it open in a new location makes it vulnerable to others who might want to take a look at your personal information. This is where a laptop lock can help.
A laptop lock fits securely around your laptop to keep others from opening it without your permission. You can find several options with varying features and costs from retailers like Office Depot and Amazon.
An additional security measure you might consider if you’re concerned about the entire laptop being stolen is a luggage lock. You can find these from several retailers as well, but you will want to make sure you use one of the TSA approved options if you’re planning to travel by air. This will help you avoid any hiccups as you and your luggage pass through security.
2. Choose a secure file sharing program
Working from a remote location often requires you to send work-related files and information to others back at home. Although you might usually just send these files using your Outlook email or even through a mobile option, working off of a public WiFi connection presents a few additional risks you should consider.
As you send and receive files while you’re traveling, you’ll want to take note of who might be able to access your online activity while you’re connected to a different WiFi connection. If a hacker were to get your information through watching your browsing activity, how easy would it be for them to wreak havoc on your file sharing system?
Make sure you are using a secure file-sharing system such as DropBox or Google Drive. You will also want to turn off all automatic file-sharing settings on your device before you log on to a public WiFi connection.
3. Get a VPN
A VPN (or virtual private network) allows you to browse securely on public networks by encrypting the data transferred between your device and the server. VPNs can be utilized for corporate purposes as well as for private devices. This scenario would be an example of a use case for a private VPN which means it would likely only cost you around $3 – $8 to connect to a good VPN server.
4. Err on the side of caution
This tip is pretty simple – if a WiFi network looks questionable, don’t use it! Although finding a solid WiFi connection while you’re on the road seems like a major win, it could actually be a significant security fail if you connect to a sketchy network.
One of the unfortunate ways online thieves are targeting unsuspecting travelers is by setting up fake WiFi connections that allow them to hack into connected devices. Once you’ve connected to one of these fake networks, a hacker can view your browsing activity and collect sensitive information like login credentials or online banking info.
If a network is not password protected and is not the official WiFi connection for a specific place of business, you’re better off going without WiFi than trying to connect.
If you notice ahead of time that your hotel doesn’t provide a password-protected WiFi option, bring along a personal WiFi hotspot or speak with your mobile carrier to set one up through your smartphone using your cell network.
5. Update your OS and security software
Finally, we get to one of the most important yet also most-neglected aspects of protecting your device on the go. Before you head out for your trip, be sure to update the operating system and security software on the device you plan to use for work. Most of us are likely guilty of ignoring notifications from our devices that prompt us to run important updates. Although it might be annoying to sit and wait for your device to run a full update while you’re trying to work, keeping all of your device’s functions up to date plays an important role in keeping potential hackers from accessing your important information.
Check your device settings to make sure you’ve run the most recent updates necessary for your operating system as well as your security software before you leave. This will help you ensure that your device is as secure as possible.
Working on vacation might seem like masochistic behavior, but in reality it’s how those of us who are passionate about what we do stay on top of important projects throughout the year. If you plan to work during your downtime on your spring vacation, these essential security steps can help you avoid setbacks due to security breaches.