It seems we can find ways to connect with the world, even from 30,000 feet. While flying used to be a no-wifi zone, connectivity is now available on 78 percent of US flights, according to an article on TravelWeekly.com.
This may be good for business travelers, but it can be bad for security while in-flight. According to Richard Blech, CEO of Secure Channels, a cyber defense firm, “The easiest way to look at this is that [wifi] is a public network, and public networks, in general, are not secure…If there is someone on the aircraft that wants to get into the network, they are going to get into the network.”
According to several security experts, something most travelers don’t consider when using onboard wifi is their proximity to others. “You’ve got three to five hours locked in, and everyone’s stationary,” Blech said. “That’s a world of time for a hacker.”
With this in mind, should you avoid logging on while flying? No, but common sense should prevail. Here are some tips for being mindful of a possible cyber threat while en route:
Many business travelers appreciate the ability to plan, organize, and manage their travel with their mobile phone. No more printed boarding passes, maps, and scribbled directions to your next meeting. Everything can be managed on your phone, saving you all kinds of headaches and hassles.
We’ve seen several new travel apps released just in time for the 2017 business travel calendar, and have a few favorites you might want to try before your next trip.
Google Trips uses your browsing history to suggest places you might want to visit. It might feel a little Big Brother-ish, but a helpful brother nonetheless. The free app allows you to use your Gmail accounts offline to plan and organize your travel through one site, and lets you make hotel reservations, book flights, and arrange car rental.
Lonely Planet’s Guides not only offers visually stunning photographs of over 100 cities, it provides an overview of that city, its language, and different budget options. It also provides insights from on-the-ground experts and maps that help you decide what to see, where to eat, and where to sleep. If you like to “travel like you live there,” something we recommend business travelers do to make their trips more interesting, the Lonely Planet guides are a great place to start.
Business travelers run some pretty big risks when it comes to cybersecurity. If you’re like most people, you think nothing of pulling out your laptop in the airport or hotel, hopping on some free wifi, and getting some work done.
Except most public wifi networks are not very secure, and you run a big risk of getting hacked or downloading malware, which can wreak havoc with your computer and your life. People can also intercept messages and information flowing in and out of your computer, including emails and passwords.
There are a few things you should be doing already to make sure your electronics are already secure:
- Have a solid anti-virus program on your devices, and keep it up to date.
- Use a secure web browser with built-in security. That means Google Chrome or Firefox, not Internet Explorer.
- Only use complex passwords with letters, numbers, and special characters in random order. Not your kids’ names, pets’ names, or swapping out ‘@’ for ‘a.’ Use a password vault like 1Password to keep track of your passwords.
- Turn on two-factor authentication whenever possible. This is a code that gets sent to your mobile phone, which you have to enter during the login process. No code, no entry. LinkedIn, Gmail, and Evernote all use two-factor authentication.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) whenever you go online.
This last one is a good idea whenever you fire up your computer, but it’s definitely important when you’re out of the office.
All that time you spend waiting for your flight, sitting on the plane, and commuting to your hotel can be productive time instead of wasted time. You just need to develop a strategy and create the proper mindset. Here are some tips to help you stay productive while traveling.
Plan ahead. You may be geared up to empty your inbox, but if your laptop’s not charged, you aren’t going to make much headway. Be sure to download any documents you need before you leave in order to accomplish a task you’ve relegated to be completed en route. This eliminates the need for wifi or using your mobile hotspot.
Use the time you have wisely. If you’re in a crowded gate or you have a limited amount of time, now is not the time to read through correspondence or memos that require your full attention. Choose some B-level items to check off your to-do list, like those articles you’ve meant to skim for the last six months, and you’ll actually be more effective than if you try to tackle something that requires serious time and concentration.
Determine to focus. Yes, distractions are hard to tune out, but if you put yourself in that mindset, you can do it. Soon, you’ll find they’re calling your flight and you have more things accomplished — and time flew by — because you were able to shut out the distractions.
It’s our worst nightmare: you’re traveling and your phone is either lost or stolen. What’s the first thing you should do? According to Asurion, a technology solutions company, 19 million people have had this happen. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s what you can do.
First, try calling or texting your phone. If you’ve lost it, the device may have been found by someone honest. If you’re traveling with someone, you can use their contact information to request a call back, or you can leave the number of the front desk at your hotel and follow up later in the day. Your lock screen will display your most recent text, so send a short message to your phone and hope your Good Samaritan will see it and call you back.
Be sure your phone’s “find my phone” feature is activated. This will enable you to discover its location for retrieval and if you share your account with other users, they too can see the device’s location. Unfortunately, if the phone is powered down, this feature doesn’t work.
Be sure your lock screen is enabled. It may seem like a pain to have to authenticate yourself with your fingerprint or a code every time your phone lapses into sleep mode, but it protects your valuable data. Apple’s lock mode will allow you to access your device remotely and either disable it or display a custom message. It also allows you to disable ApplePay.
Preparing for an international trip with your mobile phone requires research and planning. Get off the plane and just start using it, and you’ll be hit with a variety of fees and roaming charges, easily racking up several hundred dollars in a single week.
Whether you need the ability to call or just the ability to access data and text, the following tips will help you utilize your device to its fullest while keeping overall costs down.
Know your phone and your plan
All phones use either GSM (Global System for Mobiles) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) as their radio systems to communicate with cell towers. GSM phones are unlocked and can be used with any carrier, while CDMA phones are locked to a specific carrier.
Read through your plan to make sure you know what the charges will be for international use, or if you’ll even be able to use your phone while abroad. If you have a GSM phone, you can switch out your SIM card with one in the country you’re visiting (more on that later). Otherwise, you may be able to purchase a temporary plan through your carrier.
If you have a CDMA phone, you may want to buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive in your destination country.
File this under the category “Now We’ve Heard Everything.” According to an article in Smarter Travel, the latest scam to target travelers involves what’s called “juice-jacking.” Travelers desperate for a charge plug into a public charging station that, unbeknownst to them, is masquerading as a data port to steal their phone’s private and personal data.
Once a phone is connected to the station, everything on the device is downloadable: passwords, photos, emails, messages, bank account information. Worse yet, additional malware might also be infecting the device. How can you protect yourself against this new hacking method?
For one thing, be wary of public USB-friendly charging stations. There’s a chance that it’s a bogus charging station, and instead of just charging your batteries, you could give hackers access to your mobile device.
Instead, always travel with your own power pack. Some of our new Crew™ 11 Carry-on models feature a built-in battery pocket and external USB port. No more digging for your accessories or relying on potentially unsafe charging stations. Just plug your battery into the internal charging USB cord, and then plug your normal charging cord into the port on the back of your luggage.
It’s a road warrior’s constant battle, managing battery life. We all rely on our phones and tablets to provide information and entertainment while we’re on the go. Following these simple tips will help you enjoy your travel instead of worrying about when the red battery icon will appear.
- Investigate the different online storage platforms available and choose one place to access your documents and pictures. Apple supports iCloud, Google has Google Drive, and Dropbox is a third party provider that works on all platforms. Evernote is another cross-device, cross-platform option.
- Before you leave, download any new apps you might need, like a currency converter if you’re going overseas, or a maps app or guidebook that will help you navigate a new city. You’ll not only save battery life, you’ll conserve data by planning ahead. Read more
There are some things in life business travelers just can’t change, but for almost everything else there’s a hack. These tips for making your smartphone work for you should make your life easier and avoid some hassles.
Switch SIM cards when traveling abroad. You don’t have to accept exorbitant charges from your cell phone provider just because you’re seeing the world. Simply by switching out your SIM card (provided you have an unlocked phone), you can control how you use your device, whether it’s just for data and texts or only for emergency calls. I know some business travelers who will even have a mobile phone they use for that particular country. But if you don’t want to deal with that, ask your mobile phone provider for a model of phone that lets you swap out SIM cards.
Instead of relying on access to data in order to navigate through an unknown city, download apps that function offline or take screenshots of the map you will need.
As frequent travelers, and the luggage supplier to business travelers all over the world, we’ve shared a lot of travel advice. And one of the things we know is that while we may not enjoy sitting in an airport, trying to get work done, it’s worse to stand in line and not get any work done at all.
A recent article in Smarter Travel shared several ways to save time and get us out of line, as well as save some money in the process. These can save you anywhere from several minutes to a few hours of time, and let you get more work done, or you can simply have more time to relax.
Download your airline’s app. This free service will let you know if your flight has been delayed, and has up-to-date information about arrival and departure times. You can be in the know about where to find your connecting plane. Plus, the GateGuru app can give you information about security wait times, gate changes, and maps of over 200 airports.
Check in online. This is the easiest way to bypass a line and get on your way to security faster. Online check in also provides you with a virtual boarding pass which you can scan with the TSA officer instead of having to juggle it and your identification. Better yet, just use your airline app. You don’t even have to mess with your laptop and printer.
Protect Your Personal Information. Be very, very wary about using public wifi. Not every free wifi hotspot you see is legitimate; some enterprising thief can set up a fake hotspot called AIRPORT_WIFI and you’ll never know the difference. So, be sure all your computer security and the firewall are up to date, before you leave the office. Next, never do any personal banking or financial transactions online when you’re in public. If you need to work online, use your mobile phone’s personal hotspot.
Bring food with you. You won’t be gouged for overpriced airport food that probably isn’t very healthy, and you’ll know who handled that piece of fruit before you. Consider some pre-packaged energy bars as well, because they’ll keep in your bag for a few days.
Mark your luggage. Even if you don’t check your bag, there are still a lot of black carry-ons out there. Be sure to have a luggage tag with your name and address securely fastened to the bag. Consider adding something to distinguish the bag from everyone else’s, like a decal, or tying a very small tchotchke to the handle.
Photo credit: Melissa Gutierrez (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)