According to a 2018 report, British commuters were spending just under an hour every day commuting. Smartphones, tablet and laptops have become ubiquitous, as has the ability to access data on the go- that convenience also brings risks. We've compiled our top 6 tips on how to protect your data when out of the office:
1. Update, update, update
The most significant security threats are usually patched quite quickly. A Bluetooth exploit called BlueBourne allows hackers to take control of most Bluetooth enabled devices as long as it is turned on, overriding the usual ‘pairing’ feature. Apple, Microsoft and Google all patched this exploit quickly but the discoverers of this hack believe there are still over 2 billion devices vulnerable. So if you turned ‘auto-update' off because you found the restarts annoying, you might want to reconsider.
2. Biometrics trump patterns and pins
Many modern devices have fingerprint ID or face unlock built-in. Where possible, use this technology over passwords, patterns and pins, all three of which are easy to snoop on in public. Password managers such as LastPass (which can also be set up with biometrics) also allow you to autofill password protected sites and apps on your phone without having to type passwords out in public.
3. Beware public WiFi
Mobile hotspots have been around for a while now, and while they can be useful for getting your laptop connected while on the move, they can be used for stealing data. It is, for example, very easy for someone to create a ‘Rogue WiFi hotspot’ in McDonalds, rename it to “McDonalds Free Wifi” and wait for users to connect. Hackers can also infiltrate legitimate WiFi networks to snoop on user activity or use a ‘Man-in-the-Middle’ attack where they just eavesdrop and steal any unencrypted data. Our best advice is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) whenever connecting to public Wifi. A VPN will encrypt all your data, so even if the Wifi network has been compromised, they can’t see your data. Other good tips are to always use a firewall and anti-virus, turn off sharing settings and always ‘forget’ public networks once you’ve used them, to prevent your device from auto-connecting again later.
4. Data Breach
If you are storing sensitive data on your mobile device, consider turning on encryption. Most data on Apple devices is now encrypted by default, though this won’t protect you against malware or any of the Wifi vulnerability tricks above, so don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. Windows 10 has Encrypting File System (EFS) built in for individual folders. A more secure solution for Windows laptops is the built-in ‘BitLocker' option which will encrypt an entire drive. Many Android devices now ship with encryption enabled, but it’s still worth checking and turning on, especially if you have an SD card with sensitive data on it.
5. This device will self-destruct in five seconds
In a worst case scenario, if your device is stolen and there is even a slim chance the thief knows how to access the data on your phone, pre-installing a ‘remote wipe' feature can be a lifesaver. iPhones have this functionality built in as long as you've set up ‘Find My iPhone' before it was lost. Android devices now also have this feature with their ‘Find My Device’ feature, which like the iPhone option, needs to be set up beforehand with a Google account. Data on Windows 10 devices (though not Home edition) within a corporate environment can be erased using ‘Intune’, but this is a feature that can only be accessed by a company's System Admin. If you don't have this setup within your company, you will have to install a third party app like Prey or DriveStrike.
6. Security on your server
Keeping your mobile device safe is important but many remote workers rely on servers either in their office, in a data centre (colocation) or in the cloud. Even if you follow all the above tips, if you don’t protect your mail, file and database servers from attack, the whole company could find itself offline. We’d recommend investing in a good internal firewall or buying a managed firewall if you don’t have the skills in-house. This will protect you from malware, viruses and hackers trying to penetrate your network. As an extra precaution you can get a third party to scan your network for weak points, called vulnerability testing. If your company relies on its servers being available 24x7, you may be a target of DDoS attacks – investing in a good DDoS mitigation service before an attack is advisable.
And finally, the ultimate backup is taking regular backups of all your data. There are cheap options, but we’d recommend using a professional managed backup service.