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Want to Protect Your Business While Traveling? Pay Attention to the Little Things

Congratulations, you managed to wrangle some time away, and you're ready to roll. Whether it's a cruise along the coast or a convention, you've placed the right people in charge while you're out of the office. That means you can put your mind at ease, right?

Not so fast. There's more to mitigating risks while you're out than taking care of paperwork before you leave and putting the right folks in charge. 

To help reduce any anxiety, we lay out the little things you shouldn't overlook before you hit the road.

Leave A Brief OOO Message

Consider this sample out-of-office message:

I am currently attending the Small Business Empowerment trade show in Atlanta and won't be back until the 31st. Please contact Brandon Jones, my assistant in charge, at [email protected] if you need help while I'm out. Thanks!

The only one who benefits from a detailed out-of-office message is a potential thief. So, while you may feel listing your itinerary and contacts is helpful, in the wrong hands, this message could be an open invitation for a someone to:

  • Reach out to Brandon by email with a fake invoice that needs to be paid
  • Swing by your home and burglarize it while you're away
  • Target your business with more sophisticated 'spear phishing' emails

Now consider this sample out-of-office message:

I'm currently unavailable and will get back to you at my earliest convenience. Thanks.

A short message that's thin on details is less likely to endanger your business. Leave out where you're going and when you plan to get back and keep Brandon out of it. 

This approach plays it close to the vest, so strangers with nefarious intentions are less interested. You can still tell trusted contacts all the details, and if your email setup allows you to send responses to internal contacts only, you can mention them—and Brandon—there.

Do You Want to Download?

Prompts to download new apps and updates seem to occur all the time. While all downloads should be carefully considered, the worst time to do this is when you're out of your native Wi-Fi environment.

Here's why. Wi-Fi connections at hotels, resorts, convention spaces, and other public venues are a prime target for cyberthieves who set up fake networks to fool unsuspecting users. 

So, if you're attending a trade show at a Westin property with a legitimate Wi-Fi network named 'Westin Visitor,' do you think you'd know the difference if a scammer set up a counterfeit network called 'Westin Guest'? Probably not.

Using a counterfeit network to download anything can expose your device to risk. What's more, the app may be a fake front for installing hidden malware on your device.

So, if a device recommends a software update while traveling, don't do it from the hotel. Put it off until you return.

Be Mindful of Risks When Using Public Wi-Fi

Cybercriminals often monitor public Wi-Fi, so it's not good to conduct any sensitive business while using it. Take care of banking or other financial business before you leave or when you return, if it can wait.

If you have no other alternative but public Wi-Fi, only visit sites with the HTTPS prefix that can also be recognized by the distinctive padlock symbol in the browser. Be sure to log out afterward. Using a VPN that encrypts your information also provides an extra layer of security.

"Shoulder surfing," a term for hovering nearby someone who's online in the hope of stealing passwords and other sensitive data, is also a risk when using public Wi-Fi. Keep an eye out for these sneaks and shield your devices from prying eyes.

After your trip, changing your passwords can protect you from any shoulder surfer that succeeded in stealing them. Most save this information for later use, so the sooner you change them, the better.

Reduce Your Screen Lock Times

A device screen that locks after five minutes of inactivity may seem like a pain. But security experts recommend this setting to deter thieves who make off with it. The sooner the device locks, the less likely the information can be accessed.

A good rule to follow is ensuring you've taken every precaution to keep theft from happening in the first place. Don't leave your device unattended for even a minute. That trip to grab your coffee or hit the restroom will cost you.

Travel is a luxury when you run a business. Don't waste it by overlooking the little things that can blossom into big problems.