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Road warriors are prime targets for hackers

Bob Violino | Oct. 16, 2015
Many executives—particularly senior business leaders—frequently travel worldwide as part of their jobs. Hackers and cyber criminals know this, and that adds a risk factor that companies should not ignore.

When leaving a mobile device in a hotel room, secure the device in a room safe when you’re not in the room, says Richard Greenberg, ‪Information Security Officer at Los Angeles County Public Health.

“Always keep an eye on your laptop,” Greenberg says. “In the airport don't push it through the X-ray machine until you are ready to proceed yourself. Don't leave it at your table in Starbucks to get up and get a coffee. It only takes an instant to grab a device and take off.”

Make sure connections to the home office are secure. Executives on the road will almost certainly be checking in with headquarters on a regular basis for communications or to access information, and this provides a potential weak link.

Using a secure communication channel or secure corporate virtual private network for all network connections is a good idea, says Pritesh Parekh, CISO at Zuora, which provides a billing platform for subscription services.

“It’s much harder to decipher traffic going over encrypted channels,” Parekh says. “At Zuora, all our corporate services uses strong encryption so executives connecting from anywhere during travel use a secure channel to make Web connections.”

A good practice is to use multi-factor authentication with one-time use tokens to access business applications and services while traveling, Parekh says. Most of the critical applications at his company have two-factor authentication. “Zuora personnel have access to applications on a need-to-know basis and are required to enter username/password and a one-time use token,” he says.

By using encrypted and strongly authenticated remote connections over previously identified networks, executives can access the data they need, securely, Jones says.

Be aware of surroundings. Executives on the road need to have a good sense of when they are in potential danger from a security standpoint.

“For traveling executives, it’s important to have a sense of situational awareness,” says Miguel Martinez, a vice president at global risk management agency Pinkerton. “Who are you talking to and sharing information with? Who knows where you’re going? Sharing this information with the wrong parties can make you an easy target.”

Effective security precautions require not only a conscious awareness of one's environment, but the need to exercise prudence, judgment and common sense, McCann says. This is especially true when a business executive has to acclimate to different cultures, customs and laws.

In some cases, executives traveling abroad on business should be aware that they might be targeted by cyber criminals, intelligence agencies, terrorists or even business competitors if they are in possession of or are knowledgeable about proprietary information, McCann says.

This means avoiding indiscreet chatter that might get the executive or company in trouble with bad actors. With advanced electronics technology, someone could be listening in on conversations without the parties even realizing.


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