Beginning another year in the business travel industry, I often find myself reflecting on the changes and advances I’ve seen in the previous year. The biggest change I’ve notice is the growing access to technology conveniences while traveling. Aircrafts are equipped with USB charging ports and entertainment apps. It’s easy syncing your phone to a rental car or connecting to free wireless networks in hotels. With so many ways to stay connected during business trips, I now even find myself feeling annoyed when an airport does not offer free Wi-Fi access.
The compulsion to stay connected while traveling
Being “connected” to the office, email, current news, etc, is becoming an ever-growing necessity of business travel. Not only do we always feel the need to stay connected, but we demand it in a convenient manner too. In this growing frenzy to stay locked in with those in the office, many travelers unknowingly put their employer’s information and personal data at risk while achieving this growing need. With this growing accessibility, I find myself easily forgetting the consequences as well.
Why you should avoid syncing your phone to a rental car and other no-no’s
While reading a recent USA Today article, I was reminded of the hacking risks related to connecting to unknown or unsecured networks. When free or instant wifi is offered, security is often a second thought. This is how hackers and identity thieves are so successful. Our “careless connection” behavior is found in many circumstances when traveling, including hotel wifi issues or basic phishing schemes. Below are a few surprising situations in which you might encounter unsafe network activity.
- Syncing your phone with a rental car. Most newer rental cars immediately offer pairing with their onboard infotainment system. Unbeknownst to most travelers, your information can stay within the car’s system after you return the car. This leaves you susceptible to the future drivers of the car. Or, hackers can install malicious software to the car before you rent it, accessing your information once you connect your phone.
- Using the free USB charging stations in the airport. Plugging your phone into an infected USB hub is so common it even has a name – “juice jacking”. While connected to this port, hackers can easily access your private information.
- Connecting to free wifi in your hotel or airport. Are you seeing a trend here? Free access leaves many open to malicious software and hacking schemes.
Tips for avoiding hacking scams
As we’ve covered, immediate and instant communication is a necessity for business travel. And unfortunately, the easiest routes often put you in arms length of security issues. Below are a few easy tips to avoid hacks. Some of these tips are from the Federal Trade Commission.
- Avoid connecting your phone to a rental car’s infotainment system. Instead, manually enter the addresses needed.
- Charge your phone in a rental car with a cigarette lighter adapter. This is the only way it will charge your device without accessing your personal information.
- ‘Do you trust this computer?’ Say ‘no’. Don’t quickly skip through this step. If you are traveling and accessing unknown devices, always select ‘no’ for this option.
- Delete your data before returning the rental car. If you do sync your phone with a rental car’s infotainment system, be sure to delete your information before returning the car to the rental office. Deleting information is usually done by going into the settings menu of the infotainment system. Find your device and go through the prompts to delete the data. The owner’s manual or car rental company may have more information.
- Bring a fully-charged portable phone charger with you. These portable devices act as a second charge for your phone. When you are almost out of battery, just connect your phone to this device, and it charges your phone without needing to access an electrical outlet. Just remember to charge it before you leave home.
- Use a company VPN to access sensitive data while in hotels. Ask your IT department to set up an VPN connection to use while you’re traveling for business. This connection is a secure access straight to company files, so your information can not be hacked.
Our world is continually changing with increased accessibility and connectivity. With this instant gratification, it is very easy to overlook the potential security issues involved. I hope these tips will help as a reminder next time you are about to sync your phone with a rental car or in other ‘convenient’ situations.