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.

A VPN is basically a secure network of computers in a far off location that users can connect to, and exchange trusted keys that allow you to secure and encrypt all communications. Whether you’re sending an email, transferring files, or even doing some personal banking, everything is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept it or break into it.

When you’re inside the office, behind the corporate firewall, everyone inside is protected from outside attacks. But you’re only protected as long as you’re behind the firewall. Once you go on a trip and take your laptop with you, you’re no longer behind the firewall. You’re unprotected, and so is all the information on your computer.

Some companies have their own private VPN, meaning the only way you can get back inside the firewall from a remote location is with a special app. Without that particular app, and only that app, you can’t get in.

Business travelers can also make use of a third-party VPN,to encrypt their Internet communication. There are both free and paid VPNs, for laptops, tablets, and phones. Some products, like VPN Unlimited, work on nearly all Apple, Windows, and Android devices. There are even VPNs for Linux systems. Similarly, some antivirus programs, such as Avast, have VPN options as well.

There are dozens of VPNs available with their own private networks around the world. You can connect to networks all around the United States, including Florida, Missouri, Texas, Illinois, and California. There are also networks in Canada, England, The Netherlands, Brazil, and China.

And best of all, when you’re connected to your VPN and that particular local network, the websites you visit will think you’re from that part of the world. I’ve known people who use that function to check search engine rankings from different parts of the world. Other people use it to share files on a secure server behind their company firewall. And some people will use it to bypass location restrictions, such as watching Netflix while they’re overseas.

Regardless of how you use it, a VPN is one of the must-have tools for business travelers. It keeps your personal data and proprietary company information safe from thieves and hackers.

Do you use a VPN? Have you ever tried one? What was your experience? Do you have a favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Startup Stock Photos (Pexels, Creative Commons)