Tackling data security on the go

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by Brendan McKenna, Chief Technical Officer, Uni-Fi Global

Business travellers are prime targets for cyber-attacks. Here are the data security threats to be aware of and the ways to protect your data while on the go.

Since the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks which took place in May of this year, there has been a further increase in cybersecurity awareness. These global attacks caused online records and files of multiple organisations to become corrupt and totally unusable, notably within the UK’s National Health Service.

The issue of cybersecurity can no longer be ignored, particularly when you are a business traveller, often tapping into unsecure or public Wi-Fi sources and sending/receiving work emails while doing so. In this way, business critical files can be made vulnerable.

There are several categories of threats associated with unsecure Wi-Fi connections and public Wi-Fi usage:

  1. Eavesdropping

When an attacker monitors an individual’s online usage confidential information can be accessed and compromised. This turns into a ‘Man in the Middle’ attack where communication between two individuals gets intercepted by an hacker.

  1. Message modification/Message replay

This occurs when an attacker alters and resends messages between two legitimate sources, threatening the integrity of specific websites, personal information and accounts. This turns into ‘masquerading’ when the attacker impersonates an authorised user and gains access to confidential information in this way.

  1. Denial of Service

This is an attack that prevents normal online usage of an individual. This essentially renders a device redundant.

The consequences of these risks include:

  • Compromised business files and/or information – confidential business files are no longer private
  • Corrupted business files – important files are no longer usable/accessible
  • Ransomware attacks – files are essentially held ‘hostage’ by attackers and deleted after a set time if a ransom is not paid
  • Data sniffing – important files are intercepted and interfered with by a third party while they are in transit

2017 is the year where cybersecurity can no longer be an afterthought for organisations. As hackers become increasingly sophisticated in their methods, organisations should invest considerable time in training all stakeholders in the various protection methods available.

The steps below can be taken to mitigate the risk to the business by preventing your employees on the move from becoming the victim of an attack:

  • Avoid connecting to non-secure networks (public Wi-Fi hotspots/café’s/hotels). Consider using a secure 4G hotspot with sufficient encryption to ensure that online usage is not intercepted by a third party. Uni-Fi Global devices ensure the security of Wi-Fi connection through global standard encryption mode (WPA2-PSK), Wi-Fi access control and verification protocol.
  • Refrain from clicking on links contained within emails from sources you do not know – it is not worth the risk
  • Before traveling, research and list potential threats/risks to the company’s sensitive commercial information, specific to the location
  • Implement appropriate software and antivirus updates on all devices prior to departure
  • Where possible, disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities (these are entry points for attackers
  • In high threat locations, maintain physical control of your devices and sensitive information at all times
  • Alert your IT service desk to check for signs of malware, unauthorised access, corruption or intrusion if you witness any suspicious activity

When thinking about how your employees stay connected while travelling abroad, your chosen solution should use encryption methods associated with wireless networks and mobile data. If procuring global roaming devices, they should piggyback on best practice in the telecommunications and internet industries, which would give little or no exposure to a hacker to get access an employee’s device and expose sensitive corporate data.

Importantly, a would-be hacker would have difficulty knowing where to start if there are no publicly available administrative interfaces to the back-end systems and no user interface to the roaming device itself.

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Brendan McKenna is CTO of Uni-Fi Global. Uni-Fi Global provides roaming devices enabling secure, 4G connectivity at local rates worldwide

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