Flying Under the Radar

Flying Under the Radar

Business travelers need to maintain secure connectivity

With the high availability of today’s mobile network coverage and accessibility to public Wi-Fi hotspots, secure connectivity is often overlooked by traveling professionals. While enterprises and small businesses encourage employees to stay productive by working on the road, connecting to corporate networks while traveling substantially increases potential security risks including device theft, state-sponsored surveillance, or data interception from a man-in-the-middle attack while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

To counter this, companies need a mobile strategy that secures business communications on the device, in transit and when stored. IT departments also need to carefully consider public hotspot security to prevent breaches of sensitive corporate data. Threats from public hotspots can be dramatically reduced by using a personal firewall and a virtual private network (VPN). Additionally, digital containers can be used to protect data, like a virtual safe, and only release data once a secure connection is established to the company network.

Security Best Practices

Mobile device security is very often the hardest area for companies to control, especially in bring your own device (BYOD) environments where security is down to the choice of the individual device owners. Before traveling, employees should be instructed in security best-practices such as enabling two-factor authentication, remote wipe, keeping software up-to-date, staying away from unsecured Wi-Fi connections, disabling Bluetooth discovery mode, and encrypting corporate data. Employees should also avoid downloading apps from untrustworthy sources as many apps carry embedded malware and spyware that infringe privacy and share device data with unauthorized parties. When connecting to company networks, a secure VPN should always be used. A VPN automatically authenticates remote users whenever they connect with the company’s IT services. It creates a private tunnel between the user and the network shielding company confidential data from potential onlookers while using public Wi-Fi in malls, train stations and hotels during business trips. Allowing remote employees to send confidential company data privately, a VPN can encrypt web browsing activity and mask the IP addresses to prevent tracking and snooping.

Last year, analysts at Forrester published a report detailing how professionals can prevent cybertheft while traveling. In the “Best Practices for Minimizing Business Travel Risk” report, companies are advised to develop a three-stage check list for their traveling employees to help minimize security risks. Before departure, the Forrester report recommends enabling full encryption on all digital devices, deactivating USB ports, deploying VPN connectivity and installing management tools to allow devices to be wiped remotely should they be stolen.

IT professionals are also given tips that employees should follow during the trip. This includes briefing them on any local or border customs and to always to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. Finally, Forrester counsels on steps to complete when a trip is over such as drawing up and ticking off a post-trip checklist, holding a de-brief meeting with the employee (even if nothing went wrong) and making sure company policies are up to date.

End-to-End Encryption

Certain industries have always been heavily regulated. Healthcare, retail, legal and financial organizations, for example, have to comply with regular checks to prove the privacy of the customer data handled has not been put at risk. The most popular way for these organizations to privately share sensitive data is to use end-to-end encryption (E2EE). E2EE protects data in transit by encrypting it to make the content unintelligible.

Therefore, only the sender and the legitimate recipient of the message possess the unique keys to unlock the information. Even if a third-party were able to eavesdrop on the network communication, the information itself would be indecipherable.

The introduction of new compliance standards, like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, is driving the need for businesses of all industries and sizes to embrace E2EE for their communications. It’s an approach that ensures mobile communications stays private and dramatically reduces the risk of a data breach.

Advanced Authentication

One of the strongest mobile device authentication technologies available today is biometric mobile authentication. As biometric authentication methods and technologies are based on a physical characteristic of the user, they are extremely difficult for an attacker to copy. Forms of biometric authentication include fingerprint authentication, voice recognition, facial recognition and retinal scanning. Companies should advise employees to implement biometric authentication on each and every device that will access the corporate network as it provides an extra layer of protection and prevents unauthorized users from using devices.

Businesses are adjusting their security posture to bring it into line with the modern way of working. It’s no longer a question of managing employee access based on where they sit, it’s more important these days to be able to authenticate them automatically based on the device and the software they are using.

While connecting digital devices to corporate networks during business trips has become an accepted part of everyday working life, the number of ways in which sensitive company information could be lost or stolen while traveling is growing. The most secure path is to provide employees with a company-managed professional remote access VPN that automatically encrypts data communications and shields web browsing activity and IP information from hackers.

A professional VPN automatically opens up an end-to-end encrypted tunnel between mobile device and company network that maintains the integrity of all data communications—keeping it private and secure. Implementing strong passwords, antivirus software and spam filters will also prevent many unnecessary incidents. By implementing these security strategies, employees will be able to effectively fly under the radar wherever their business travels take them.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Security Today.


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