Managing cyber risks while on the move

Apr 23, 2018

Cyber security is unlikely to be front of mind when you’re travelling for work, whether attending a conference or grabbing a coffee at the local café. However, numerous security issues can arise in these situations that pose risks to your devices and the information they hold.

In December 2015, data-mining experts from the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech co-authored The Global Cyber-Vulnerability Report  ranking the vulnerability of 44 nations to cyberattacks. The most cyber-vulnerable countries were:

  1. India
  2. South Korea
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4. China
  5. Russia

Use of public Wi-Fi while travelling

Free Wi-Fi is widely available across many countries, but connecting to it can result in inadvertently sharing confidential information.

Some devices have the ability to auto-connect to publicly accessible Wi-Fi. Although convenient, this is an easy way to link to a compromised network, without even knowing it. It’s in your best interests to turn off this function and consciously choose which networks join. If you’re unsure about who owns the network, don’t connect to it.

Paying for access to Wi-Fi such as at a hotel doesn’t automatically mean the network is secure. Avoid accessing medical portals or entering your bank details when connected. It’s also a good idea to have “remember my password” unticked when logging into your emails or other software and online platforms, as this information can make its way to a hackers if the network is breached.

Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone is a safer option.

Stay away from prying eyes

You may find yourself scrolling through your work emails while you’re attending a conference or external meeting. However, be conscious there is a possibility the people sitting around you may also be able to see your screen.

If you know the content is confidential or contains sensitive information, hold off on viewing it until you are away from prying eyes. Similarly, be mindful of who can see when entering a password.   

During breaks at a conference, if you leave your bag or laptop on your seat, it’s a good idea to lock your devices or in case you forget, activate the auto lock function.

If you’re carrying around documents on USB when travelling, purchase an encrypted USB. This makes it tricky for your confidential data to be accessed if lost or stolen. Also, be conscious that USBs can be infected by viruses and pose threats to your devices when using someone else’s.

Tips to keep in mind when you’re on the go:

  • switch off the auto connect function for Wi-Fi and only connect to networks when you know the owner
  • treat all public Wi-Fi as suspicious and navigate the web and your device accordingly
  • don’t view sensitive or confidential information while accessing public networks or in a public place
  • have complex and unique passwords for your different accounts and online platforms – keep “remember my password” unticked
  • make sure you have antivirus and that you update it regularly
  • lock your devices when you aren’t using them
  • use encrypted USBs and keep them safely in your bag when you don’t need them.

If you have questions about cyber security, it’s best to speak to your hospital’s information technology team or practice’s IT advisers. 

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