By Jan Vrabec, security expert at ESET
The summer holiday season is finally here. For many this is an opportunity to leave the office behind and put work well and truly out of mind for two weeks. But research indicates that increasingly workers — particularly managers — will try some form of remote working whilst on holiday this year.
An Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) poll found that as many as a third of managers will stay in contact with the office either by phone or email whilst on holiday.
With this in mind, here is a list of 13 simple holiday security tips. Whether your weapon of choice is a netbook, notebook or smartphone, you need protection.
BEFORE LEAVING FOR VACATION
1. The golden rule - Install or update your anti-virus software: Always use antivirus software and make sure it runs the latest version at all times. Even the slower netbooks should be able to run a proper virus scanner — such as that from ESET — to provide adequate protection, without slowing the system down.
2. Prevention beats having to clean an infiltration, so back up your data, whether stored on netbook, laptop or smartphone, to keep it secure at all times. In case of theft or loss of your device, you can at least eliminate the potential of parting with your data for good.
3. Use encrypted passwords: Data and data storage devices should always be password-protected — best is to use encryption to prevent their misuse should they fall into the wrong hands.
4. Check your flash disks and USB devices for malware: Portable media are currently the most common carrier of malware. Before you leave for holidays or business, do yourself a favor and scan them for viruses.
Before doing so, remember to always disable the Windows AutoRun feature, so the virus is not inadvertently transferred to your computer.
One more tip: Format the digital camera flash drive before its maiden use (preferably in the camera rather than PC) — just to be on the safe side. It is not uncommon that new flash cards come with pre-installed malware on it.
WHEN ON HOLIDAY
5. Beware of thieves: Theft of portable computers and cell phones can ruin your day. To avoid a long face, always keep your computer in a safe place or use a Kensington security lock to minimize the risk.
6. Wireless networks: This may be harsh, but you should avoid publicly available unsecured wireless networks at all times and at all cost.
7. Watch out for data thieves: Stay alert when typing away at a PC at the local Internet café. These in-house computers often run keyloggers — a malicious form of software that can steal passwords and track your data as you type.
Never use services of Internet banking, exchange e-mails or access your social network in such places. What’s more, when using a USB device, be aware of the possibility that you can bring home unwanted malware as a souvenir.
8. Keep (your computer) cool: High temperatures are always the enemy of electronic devices. The sun can severely damage or even destroy them.
9. Surf the web safely: A safer option than using the public Wi-Fi network is to surf the web using your own modem or smartphone. To avoid the high data roaming costs, consider purchasing a local prepaid card to perform all your sensitive online transactions.
10. Start a new e-mail account: Set up automatic forwarding of messages from your regular e-mail to a designated “vacation only” account. This way, if someone steals your e-mail data, the damage will be considerably smaller than if your regular account got compromised. Also, your old e-mail messages will remain intact.
11. Scan your computer (at least online): Where possible, scan your laptop — at least with an online scanner to ensure that it is malware-free. Free online virus scanner can be found at ESET’s website.
AS YOU RETURN HOME
12. Scan your computer and phone for viruses: Just to make sure, upon arrival you should check your computer and smartphone for possible infiltrations (again, disable the AutoRun function before you do so). We also recommend that you scan your camera’s flash card and USB devices.
13. Revert to your regular e-mail: Stop forwarding your messages to the “vacation only” account and start using your regular e-mail again.