"Think Security First": Security Tips When on the Road

Published October 15, 2019 By Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, PAFM
When traveling for work, most people are outside their normal element and identity thieves know how to take advantage of this. They target travelers to get to specific data assets-not just wallets and skimming credit cards but also laptops, smartphones and tablets. Thieves know these devices contain digital information that can be sold/utilized on the dark web and then they can sell the hardware after they have extracted all sellable data which is why organized gangs target areas frequented by travelers. Below we outline key considerations for firm managers to educate their mobile personnel before they travel, some of which we have excerpted from Neal O’Farrell’s book “Think Security First,” which is available for download for CPAFMA members and Right Networks clients.

Equipment in Hotel Rooms: Criminal gangs target hotels knowing that they are full of business people with smartphones, tablets and computers and either rifle through rooms with a master key when the traveler is away or collude with employees to get access, so never leave equipment unattended. Solution: Lock equipment in the room safe, use a locking cable, or just bring it with you.

Equipment in Cars: According to a survey done by Kensington, one in four laptops that were stolen were taken from cars. Thieves can easily walk through parking lots looking into cars for an easy “smash and grab” or be tipped off by an unscrupulous parking attendant observing a target locking their computer in the trunk after arriving in the parking garage. Solution: Always cover any equipment or lock it in the trunk when you get into the car rather than after arrival at your destination, so no one sees it being placed in the trunk or observes it through the window.

Hotel Credit Card Request: Never give credit card information out over the phone; thieves randomly call into hotels and have them ring random rooms stating they are from the front desk and need to confirm credit card information because “an error occurred during check-in.” Solution: Never give credit card information over phone unless you initiate the call and are sure it is the correct phone number. Instead, go downstairs to verify and think about taking the staircase as it is a lot healthier!

Hotel Lobby Computers: Avoid using hotel WiFi or their lobby computers as they are easily compromised by hackers that can load keyboard logging and other malware which can compromise your login credentials and/or infect your devices. Solution: Utilize your own smartphone mobile hotspot for wireless access and pre-load airline applications for digital boarding passes.

Pickpockets: Pickpockets target traveler’s wallets, smartphones and computer bags waiting for any momentary lapse of attention where they can snatch the device and disappear in seconds! Solution: Always physically touch your phone/wallet/computer bag in any crowded situation and keep copies of credit cards, phone numbers, and IDs stored in a secure remote location so those credit cards can be quickly cancelled if stolen.

Security needs to be top of mind for firm managers not only in the office but also when firm personnel are on the road. RightNetworks has partnered with CPAFMA to provide a digital copy of Neal O’Farrell’s book “Think Security First,” as a comprehensive member resource which is available for download from CPAFMA's Connect portal on their website.