Travelling with your security blanket (cross post)

security-blanket-schroeder(Originally posted on the Iron Mountain Information Advantage Blog on October 16th 2013)

Mobile devices are great. I’m sat here in the back of a car in India travelling to a meeting. I’m connected to the internet via my iPhone and using the time to write a blog post on my laptop about the inherent dangers of using mobile devices while travelling. The irony isn’t lost on me.

Much has already been said on the various things that can be done to protect yourself while working on the move. Indeed, just the other day I wrote a piece on exactly how not to do it, and I am sure it is a regular topic of internal security articles at many companies.

The key issue I see is that the security measures are not always seen as ways to protect information. Rather, they are often seen as hoops that people need to jump through to get to the information they need to do their work. When, as is sometimes the case, security measures are poorly designed and/or poorly implemented, then the view of information security as an obstacle should come as no surprise.

Therefore, rather than trying to foist technology or procedures onto people, would we not be better focussing on behaviours that can be reinforced with easy to remember concepts? Here are a few to consider:

Location
Think about where you are sitting with your laptop/mobile phone. Can it be stolen easily (as in this example) or can your screen be viewed easily by people sat nearby? Your data can be both physically stolen as well as “visually” appropriated.

Connection
All internet-based connections should go through a VPN. This might be overkill for some, but it ensures that there is no internal dialogue about the security of a Starbuck’s Wi-Fi versus a BT hotspot or even a hotel Wi-Fi. Always use a corporate VPN to encrypt and tunnel your traffic through any potentially unsafe network. Even when using a personal laptop to do your own work in a cafe, like a bit of banking or shopping, your credentials and details can be stolen, so use one of the many commercial (and sometimes free) VPN products that are available

Observation
Be aware of your surroundings. Is this a high-traffic area such as a cafe or airport lounge, with people moving in and out frequently? Be aware of what is on your screen – is it confidential? Should you really be working on it in a public space? This doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid, but travellers, especially when abroad, can often be spotted easily and are often viewed as vulnerable. Knowing your surroundings and behaving accordingly is an important part of not only keeping your data secure, but of keeping yourself safe also.

Let’s face it, technology is never going to solve everything. I wrote recently about an example which had all the right technology in place, only to be let down completely by a visit to the bathroom. If in doubt, your mobile devices should be your “bathroom buddies” and not left exposed in public!

 

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About Thom Langford

An information security professional, award winning security blogger and industry commentator. Available as a speaking head and presenter on topics relating to information security, risk management and compliance.

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