October is National Cyber Security Awareness month. Mobile devices are popular with employees and travel, enabling them to work on the go. This is part 17 in a series of blog posts we will be publishing on various topics aimed at educating you on how to stay protected on today’s Internet landscape.
Smartphones and tablets are powerful productivity tools for business travelers. Yet the information stored on these devices can be vulnerable —which is why taking steps to secure it is critical. More than half of the small and medium-business owners who took part in the 2014 Symantec Small/Medium Business Mobile Survey said they keep customer information on their smartphones and tablets. In the wrong hands, this information could put your business at risk.
The best way to protect your data on the go is to understand the risks and take precautions. These tips can help you and your employees protect sensitive information when traveling with mobile devices:
Think Carefully About What to Bring
Adapt your pre-travel routine to include the step of winnowing down the data that you will need for your trip. If you have important files stored on your device that you will not need, move them onto another device through a cable or flash drive, or into the cloud through a service such as Box, Dropbox or Google Docs. Back up the files that you take with you as well. This may sound like a cumbersome task in a busy schedule, but it is a basic security step that can pay off mightily.
Boost Your Device’s Defenses
Instead of a four-digit passcode (or worse, no passcode at all), choose a long, alphanumeric password to protect your phone or tablet. You can set your password from your device’s “Settings” menu. (On Apple devices, switch off the “Simple Passcode” option to enter a longer password.) Set your screen to lock after a short period — the shorter this period, the less opportunity someone will have to break into the device.
Also consider security software, such as Norton Small Business or Norton Mobile Security, which scans for malware and other threats and includes lock and wipe features for securing missing devices. Install the latest system updates for your device, as they may include fixes for security vulnerabilities.
Venture Online Safely
Wi-Fi networks in airports, hotels and cafés can be easy targets for hackers. If you need to use Wi-Fi, try to stick to encrypted networks — those that require a username or password — and look for one secured with WPA2 or WPA encryption. These are more secure than networks secured with WEP encryption, an older standard. You should be able to see these options when choosing a network.
Some newer smartphones allow users to create password-protected, private mobile hotspots (check your settings menu). If you use this feature, create a complex password that includes uppercase and lowercase letters and special characters, rather than using the auto-generated password. You might also explore virtual private network (VPN) services that make users invisible on public networks and encrypt usernames, passwords and other confidential information sent through the web. An online search for VPN or hotspot services for small businesses will bring up affordable options for different operating systems.
Watch Device Settings
Turn off Wi-Fi when you are not using it to prevent automatic connections to Wi-Fi networks. Switch off Bluetooth functionality as well, since savvy hackers can use this technology to gain surreptitious entry into smartphones and tablets. If your phone allows it, consider setting it to “airplane mode” before entering confidential meetings — savvy cyber criminals can spoof cell phone towers using commercially available equipment, enabling them to take control of the device and use the microphone feature to listen in on conversations.
Common sense is an important part of keeping devices safe. Watch that no one is looking over your shoulder as you enter passwords or read emails or files. Be cautious on planes, in crowded restaurants or in cafés — laying a smartphone or tablet on a table and turning away for just a second can give a thief an opportunity to strike. Be aware of your surroundings before using your phone on the street. If you don’t need your device while you’re out, lock it in the safe when leaving your hotel room.
Taking these steps can go a long way toward protecting your devices and data. Norton Small Business, designed for companies with fewer than 20 employees, and Norton Mobile Security, which is suitable for larger businesses, can make this protection even stronger. These services scan apps for malware and privacy risks, remotely lock and wipe missing devices, and include other powerful features that let you do business with confidence anywhere, anytime and on any device.
This is part 17 of a series of blogs for National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
For more information on various topics, check out:
5 Ways You Didn't Know You Could Get a Virus, Malware, or Your Social Account Hacked
How To Choose a Secure Password
How To Avoid Identity Theft Online
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams
How To Protect Yourself From Cyberstalkers