Business Travelers Can Continue to Carry Laptops in their Carry-On Luggage

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has ended a four month ban on laptops in carry-on luggage on U.S. bound flights from the Middle East and North Africa. The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets. It affected ten airports and nine airlines that are based in the Middle East.

The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the final airport to have the ban lifted, after they and the other airlines and airports implemented new security measures designed to check for explosives in the large electronics.

Officials visited the ten airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and confirmed that the security measures were in place.
Business travelers on Etihad Airways and other Middle East airlines were concerned about a laptop ban.
The airports originally affected include Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Riyadh, Saudia Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. The carriers most heavily impacted by this ban were Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, and Turkish Airlines.

A ban on the citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen still remains in place, although several U.S. court hearings are challenging those restrictions.

The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation and supporting the industry,” Will Horton, senior analyst at Australian aviation consultancy CAPA, told Reuters.

The ban was nearly expanded to cover all flights into the U.S. from the Middle East and Europe, which had international business travelers concerned. Since many business travelers have long been practitioners of “carry-on luggage only” travel, this could have had serious ramifications on business travel in general.

Instead, the U.S. accepted new security and screening measures from the airports in Europe and Middle East, other than the original ten airports, thus preventing the expanded ban. And now that the U.S. has lifted their ban on the remaining airlines, business travelers can continue to carry their laptops and tablets in their carry-on luggage.

That was a bit of a close call for business travelers, but we can remain productive. We’ve also talked about how to function without a laptop, should a similar ban return. How would you cope if the ban were instituted? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Top 5 Alternatives if the Laptop Ban Goes Into Effect

July 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re attached to your laptop with an emotional umbilical cord, you may need to plan how you’re going to survive the separation that may be forced upon us all if the Department of Homeland Security’s current laptop ban is broadened to include more U.S. bound flights from more Middle East and European countries.

In March, the U.S. banned laptops on flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey to prevent bombs from being taken aboard flights inside laptop computers. They nearly expanded it to all U.S.-bound flights, but have instead created some additional security screen protocols instead.

But if you’re still coming from one of the check-your-laptop countries, you’re going to be without your laptop for a long stretch of time. So here are some ways to survive those laptop-less flights, especially with your mobile phone. (Because tablets are included in the laptop  ban too.)

You could just carry a couple books with you if there's ever a laptop ban.

  • Read offline. There are multiple apps that can be used to allow you to read all kinds of books and articles on your phone, no laptop necessary. Consider the Kindle app for those books you would’ve accessed on your e-reader. Try Pocket or Flipboard to save articles and read them later, or use Evernote to save almost anything or review notes you created at a meeting and need to digest. And there’s always a physical book, magazine, or newspaper you could bring with you. When was the last time you actually read something on real paper?
  • Speaking of paper, invest in a notebook. Thinking through an issue by jotting notes about it might actually turn out to be as productive as typing. It will force your brain to slow down, and who knows what genius moments might come of that? You can also use the notebook to make a list of things you need to do. Or you might write the beginning scene of the next great American novel. Remember doodling? It’s still a thing.
  • Update your security. Yes, you’re loathe to check your laptop because you don’t want to lose it. So do what you can to protect your device: change your passwords, encrypt your hard drive, and backup your data. Take a hard look at whether or not you can travel without your laptop altogether. You might be able to borrow a company laptop and upload pertinent files to it using a flash drive. You might choose to purchase a “burner laptop” of sorts, a very inexpensive model that would only have data specific to the trip on it. That way if it’s lost, you don’t lose everything.
  • Think through the work that needs to be done that you can’t do on your laptop. You know, that list you’ve made somewhere that you never get to because you’re tied to your screen? Now’s your chance to catch up on that. Print out reports to read, manuscripts to edit, or data to analyze, and work from paper during your trip.
  • Get a few items to convert your phone into a temporary laptop if you just can’t endure all those hours without it. Purchase a portable keyboard so you can respond to those important emails, assuming you can read what you’re typing on that tiny screen. You’ll also need something to refresh your battery since you’ll be burning through it being productive. Ventev has one that’s both a charger and a stand. And if you want to make sure your seat mate doesn’t snoop while you work, buy a screen protector.

Or you could just take a nap and catch up on your sleep.

How would you cope with a laptop ban? Would you be completely lost, or would you have options available to you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Pexels (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

New Warning about Luggage Tags

June 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.

The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.

This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Don't share photos of your airline luggage tags on social media -- the bar code is readable and contains a lot of personal information.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:

  1. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
  2. Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
  3. Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
  4. Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.

Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.

What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

The Lowdown on VPNs for Business Travelers

February 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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.
A woman typing on a laptop, presumably staying productive while traveling.
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.
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Secrets to Making Your Travel Safe From Cyber Attacks

January 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

There are two schools of thought regarding cyber attacks: everyone’s at risk and I’m too small for anyone to tap. One is smart thinking, the other is dangerous.

According to Jeff Moss, founder of Black Hat and Def Con, two of the world’s foremost conferences on hacking and information security, and an advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, you’re better off assuming the first than believing the second. Here’s his advice for protecting yourself from cyber threats while traveling.

Cyber attacks happening in real time on Norse Attacks map.

Cyber attacks happening in real time on Norse Attacks map.

Use your passport instead of your driver’s license when asked to provide identification. The driver’s license, according to Moss, contains too much information, specifically your address and descriptive features like weight, height, sex, and eye color, that can be used against you if obtained by a hacker.

Don’t leave your devices unattended. While most people assume their hotel room is secure because of the lock on the door, Moss doesn’t feel comfortable with the risk unless his laptop’s hard drive is fully encrypted. He doesn’t want to give anyone access to sensitive, proprietary data should the computer be stolen while he’s away from the room.
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What to Do if Your Mobile Phone is Lost or Stolen

January 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Mobile phone being used by a woman with red painted fingernailsBe 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.
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How to Protect Your Information at a Hotel

August 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the same words we hear from friends and loved ones whenever we’re headed out on yet another trip.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel“Be safe,” they advise. “Have a safe flight.”

What about once we arrive at our destination? There’s a lot we can and should do to keep ourselves safe once we arrive at our hotel.

Anthony Melchiorri, host of the Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible,”shared with Business Insider magazine a list of things to do to be safe and keep your personal information secure while on the road. We thought they were worth passing along.
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Border Patrol Wants to Access Visitors’ Social Media

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.

We’re not sure how we feel about that.

On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.

Patch_of_the_United_States_Border_PatrolAccording to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”
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Protect Your Identity and Your Technology While Traveling

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel and all that it entails makes for an environment ripe with opportunity for theft and scamming. Why? There’s lots of money involved and lots of personal information offered in the purchasing process.

A crowded airport is especially vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves while you're traveling.

A crowded airport is especially vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves while you’re traveling.

There are some simple ways to protect yourself, and, according to a CIO.com article, you can and should do everything you can to make sure you’re secure before you ever book your first ticket. That security starts with the travel site you choose to use.

Don’t believe those cyber vacation deals that seem too good to be true. Most of the time they are, and, worse yet, instead of a deal you might be getting a nightmare if you find out later what you thought was reputable turns out to be a scam. Stick with the big players with known reputations, read all the fine print, and watch your credit card statement like a hawk.

Don’t fool yourself by believing your mobile device is less susceptible. Charlie Abrahams, senior vice president of MarkMonitor, says the company spends a good deal of time scanning online app stores because, “there are a lot of apps there that are completely fake.”
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