Expert insights

How to stop your laptop getting hacked on the move

13 December 2017 by George Hazell

Stay one step ahead of hackers and thieves with our expert’s security tips for business travellers.

So much of our lives are stored on our laptops, from personal to business-related information. But, when it comes to working on the move, this can make your laptop more vulnerable to cyber attacks and theft. With this in mind, here are some tips to keep your data safe.

Be careful around WiFi hotspots

If you’re working on the move, you’ll almost certainly want to connect to a WiFi hotspot. But, public WiFi hotspots, such as those available in airports or coffee shops, aren’t always secure. You might think you’re connecting to a reputable network, but it could be a fake hotspot that’s been created by hackers. If this is the case, the hacker could be able to track what you’re viewing online, and grab your personal login details.

The best way to secure your information when connected to a public WiFi network is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This acts like an encrypted network within a network, and ensures that the information you are searching or inputting while using a public network remains invisible. It’s highly likely that if you were connecting to your business network via a public hotspot, you would be doing this through your corporate VPN. Therefore, you could have confidence that your data would be safe and secure.

If you’re connected to a public hotspot, and it’s not one that you or your employer controls the security of, avoid typing in sensitive information, or carrying out financial transactions.

Watch your laptop

Don’t neglect the physical safety of your laptop. As so much of our lives are contained on these devices, it could be a life-changing event if these are lost or stolen. Consider investing in a laptop lock that can be looped around a fixed object, and ensure your laptop is password protected.

In the hustle and bustle of travelling, it’s all too easy to lose your device. Between April 2016 and March 2017; data from Transport for London’s Lost Property Office revealed that 1,259 computers and personal electronic devices were left behind on their network.

Today, most company laptops are encrypted so that if something were to happen on the move, your data would be protected. But, it goes without saying that all information should be backed up, for data security.

Back up your data

If you’re going to be travelling for business over an extended period of time, you need to make sure that you have some means of backing up your data. An external solid-state drive (SSD) is an effective way to do so.

SSDs are available as both external or internal devices, and act as an extension of your computer’s memory, with the capacity to store applications and files. Unlike hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts, which makes them more durable to wear and tear sustained on the move, and have faster performance speeds.

And, with cyber attacks becoming more sophisticated, it’s important to make sure that your data is backed up securely.

Stay ahead of cyber attacks

As the recent NHS cyber attack showed, one of the most dangerous – and increasingly common – viruses is ransomware. This malicious software locks and prevents users from accessing their computer systems until a sum of money is paid. Ransomware can be downloaded onto systems in many ways, from spammed email attachments to a visit to a corrupt website.

To keep your system safe from malware, encrypt your hard drive and make sure you have the latest security software installed. This way, if something were to happen, only a minimal amount of data would be lost.

It’s all about common sense. If you do receive a suspicious email, even if it appears to come from someone you know, resist the temptation to click on links and attachments. It could be something malicious, which might affect the security of your data.

What to do if you experience a cyber attack

If you’re affected by a cyber attack when working on the move, try and make some sort of offline contact with your corporate IT hub. Avoid trying to connect to your corporate network, as this may escalate the problem.

In the case of a ransonware attack, it can be tempting to pay the ransom, particularly if your data has been encrypted. Don’t. Fraudsters will rarely offer a resolution. In the first instance, report any attacks to your corporate IT hub. And, if you’re in the UK, make sure to report details of the attack to the authorities.

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