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When in China, don't leave your laptop alone

Bob Violino | Dec. 5, 2012
If you travel to China or Russia, assume government or industry spooks will steal your data and install spyware. Here's how to thwart them

To get better encryption of data on mobile devices, look to mobile management tools providers, several of which offer app containers that have a higher level of encryption around the data and apps running within them; examples include AirWatch, Good Technology, and MobileIron. And every mobile device management (MDM) tool can ensure that native device encryption is enabled.

Keep in mind that encryption isn't foolproof when it comes to thwarting highly skilled spies. "Operate with the awareness that even encrypted communication may not be completely private, and therefore limit any nonpublic activities while overseas," says Vigilant's James.

5. Limit remote access to devices and wireless communications when overseas. You should disable access to and from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices while traveling, Irvine says.

"All Bluetooth devices have some vulnerabilities inherent to them," Irvine says. Older versions of Bluetooth are more susceptible to hacking and eavesdropping, he notes, so "if your device is older than a year or so, it's time to upgrade.".

"Wi-Fi hotspots and even hard-cable-based Internet access at untrusted locations should not be used," Irvine says. While cellular still may be suspect in foreign countries, he says, it remains the safer alternative.

Do not work in Internet cafés and other public hotspots. In countries like China, "these are not places where employees should be working on sensitive information or connecting and sending private or company restricted information via email or other forms of social media," says McDonald's Akibia.

If possible, work on networks that you trust, such as those in your own facilities or those operated by trusted business partners.

In addition, if you're planning to travel internationally, you should change all passwords on systems before leaving, to make sure that passwords on devices are not the same as any other passwords you have on personal or corporate systems back home. Also, use totally different passwords than normal, so a password stolen overseas doesn't help the cyber thief figure out your everyday passwords.

"If possible, IT departments should disable access to systems while they are abroad, so if [identity] or passwords are compromised, nothing can be accessed," Irvine says.

If wireless communication is necessary, all communications via mobile devices should use strong encryption and be limited where there is a concern that any potential adversary has significant cryptologic capabilities, says Timothy Ryan, a managing director at Kroll Advisory Solutions. Consider using VPNs with two-factor authentication. "If sensitive matters must be discussed, blend out-of-band communications such as voice and chat to increase the difficulty of your adversary monitoring your communications," he says.

6. Make sure your systems are up to date with antivirus software. Failing to keep antivirus definitions current is virtually a guaranteed path to system compromise.


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