10 ways to be more secure when traveling

Business traveling is a mixed bag. While it can certainly be productive, more often than not it’s also a pain. And when you add cybersecurity considerations into the mix, it can get downright stressful.

We work with quite a few companies with remote workforces. Additionally, as IT business consultants, we have regular contact with frequent business travelers on a daily basis. As a result, we’re well-versed in some of the dos and don’ts of secure business travel.

What follows are our top 10 tips for keeping your data safe while you’re out of town.

Traveling tips for data security

Before we get to the tips, a word of warning. Some of these are going to seem extreme. If you’ve never given much thought to cybersecurity when you’re not connected to a known network, our tips might even seem paranoid.

That’s because we only care about one thing—keeping your data safe. If you’re serious about guarding your data on the road, this is how you do it.

1. Stay away from mobile hotspots

Public Wi-Fi is dangerous, pure and simple. In fact, a recent article in CSO stated, “Today’s Wi-Fi standards are flawed and should not be trusted.”

The article went on to explain exactly why public Wi-Fi should be avoided at all costs. “One of the biggest threats with free Wi-Fi is the ability for hackers to position themselves between you and the connection point.” That includes data you might think is encrypted.

2. Use a VPN to encrypt data traffic

A VPN is like your own personal secure connection. With one, your mobile devices are linked directly to a private server and all the data exchanged between the two is encrypted. That, of course, adds a significant layer of security.

However, be sure you pick a VPN service you trust. The VPN service provider can see your traffic, so steer clear of questionable free providers.

Read more: How to set up a VPN[

3. Encrypt your mobile devices in case they’re lost or stolen

If your phone or laptop provides you with the option to encrypt all local data, do it. That way, even if you lose your phone or your laptop is stolen, all your information is safe and sound.

And if you’re wondering just how strong consumer encryption options are, even the FBI has a very hard time bypassing this form of protection.

4. Use privacy screens to avoid shoulder surfing in public spaces

Privacy screen protectors (like this one) make it difficult for anyone but the person holding a smartphone or sitting directly in front of a laptop to read what’s on the screen. This added layer of security means you don’t have to worry about anyone else seeing your private information, even accidentally.

If your work includes particularly sensitive information, like medical records or other data protected by strict regulatory laws, this is a must-have precaution.

5. Use a wall plug charger instead of public USB ports

Public USB ports are just as dangerous as public Wi-Fi networks—which, when you think about it, makes sense. After all, you’re connecting your device to a public network, even if your only goal is to charge your phone.

Instead of using a public USB port, opt for a standard wall outlet for charging.

6. Don’t share that you’re traveling on social media

It’s perfectly fine to share that you were on a trip once you’re back in town. But it’s ill-advised to post that you’re out of town while still traveling. (That’s true for business trips and vacations alike.)

Why? Because you’re advertising that your home, office, car, and local business network are all unwatched for a while. That’s like an invitation for thieves.

7. Disable Bluetooth connectivity

The great thing about Bluetooth is how quickly and easily it connects our devices. Unfortunately, that’s what makes it unsafe, too.

Cybercriminals can use an open Bluetooth connection to gain access to your device, especially in crowded areas like airports. Turn it off while you’re on the road.

Related: Shadow IT and the impact it can have on your business[

8. Setup multi-factor authentication for your online accounts

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a simple, secure way to ensure a user is actually authorized to access an account when a new login is attempted. Even if you have the password, you typically have to enter an additional code delivered via text message or email.

While a lot of services offer multi-factor authentication, the trick is that you have to set it up. It’s absolutely worth the minor hassle.

9. Consider using encrypted text messaging

Encrypted chat apps like Signal and WhatsApp give you the ability to send and receive text messages as effortlessly as the default app on your phone with one added benefit—the data is entirely encrypted.

However, while WhatsApp is the best known encrypted chatting app, it’s also owned by Facebook, and that brings with it a whole new set of privacy and security concerns. That’s why we recommend Signal.

10. Update the software on your laptop and phone

Time and again, headline-making data breaches uncover the same annoying truth. Updating your software really does keep you safe.

Update your apps. Apply software patches. Don’t fall victim to a security breach simply because you weren’t up-to-date.

Keep reading: 5 steps to make working remotely effective for your company

How to manage remote workers effectively

Using remote workers as a part of your business comes with plenty of advantages. In addition to reducing overheads, your employees may experience less stress, they won’t need to commute as far, and you can easily hire people around the world. At the same time, remote working requires employees to have a high degree of self-discipline. This means you need to know how to manage remote workers effectively.

Create an onboarding process

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that a remote worker doesn’t require any onboarding. However, failing to provide them with an induction in the same way that you would with office-based workers can result in a sense of apathy. Make sure your onboarding procedures include information about how your company does business, the team members they’ll be working with, and details about the software they use. Your onboarding processes should also include any documents pertaining to IT and NDA agreements.

Establish communications processes

If you and your remote working team are going to touch base with one another, you’ll need to establish communication processes. According to some statistics, around 50% of the United States workforce will soon work remotely. If remote working practices are going to run smoothly, communication and regular updates must become a priority. You may find that scheduling regular catchups using VoIP is mutually beneficial as other people can join in on the calls where needed. Make sure the communication processes you use extend beyond just yourself and the workers. Encourage them to communicate with each other as this generates a sense of loyalty.

Create a project management database

Always remain wary of micromanaging your remote workers. Although you want to know that they’re dedicating themselves to their projects throughout the day, constant calls, emails, and video conferences aren’t conducive to productivity. As an alternative, you may want to create a project management database with actionable tasks, details of who’s been allocated to them, and updates. When you and your project managers can see where progress is being made, it’s easier to promote productivity among your workforce while remaining assured they’re working efficiently.

Use time trackers where necessary

Although you don’t want to fall into the trap of micromanaging, it’s normal to want to make sure that your workers are doing their fair share while telecommuting. One way to oversee this is by using time trackers. Time trackers track the amount of time a remote worker spends on their tasks, before sending accurate reports back to you. They prove especially beneficial when your remote workforce operates on a billable hour basis rather than a fixed salary agreement. Employees may feel disinclined to dip into non-work-related tasks when time trackers are in use, which then makes them more productive.

Support your remote workforce in creating a productive environment

With remote working comes the temptation to slip away from productive environments. You should support your employees in making sure they’re in an efficient setting by establishing workplace ground rules. This may include keeping home offices free from distractions, not carrying out sensitive work using public WiFi, and not working late into the night in order to use morning hours for other activities. You should remain flexible to promote a sense of independence among your employees, but it’s okay to help them establish a sense of stability too. Also, keep security in mind. Research suggests that nomadic remote workers prefer using co-working spaces, so make sure your team is working from ones that are safe.

Using the right IT tools, you can create a remote worker environment that’s productive and useful. Always remember to prioritize communication with those who represent your business, and provide as much virtual support as you can without becoming overbearing.

5 steps to make working remotely effective for your company

Did you know that between 80 and 90 percent of employees would like to work remotely for at least part of their work week?

Affording staff the freedom to align work with their lives is not the only benefit of embracing a remote team for your small business. With fewer restrictions on your workplace location, you’ll have access to not only the best talent in your region but the best in the country – even the world.

What’s more, with the influx of powerful cloud-computing apps for business, you can improve productivity and cut costs on in-house tech services with remote support.

If you’re looking to make working remotely effective for your company, follow these five steps.

1. Invest in reliable tools

The success of a remote team relies heavily on the tools they use. If your employees have trouble hearing you on a conference call, can’t download or collaborate on a file, and run out of storage space, you’re in trouble. Investing in reliable tools – Office 365, for example – is absolutely imperative, and not just for productivity.

Collaboration in a remote team is just as important as in any local workforce, especially for building a sense of community, culture, and belonging. Find a flexible platform with easy integration of the kind of communication, scheduling and productivity applications you need most and build on that. From document sharing to CRM and video conferencing, make sure everyone has secure, flexible access to the right technology to get the job done.

If you’re not confident you have the right tech to transition to a remote workforce, it could be worth investing in a professional technology assessment.

2. Keep your team engaged

An engaged team is a productive team, so keep everyone connected with a robust set of communication options.

Some remote employees find it useful to share what they’ll be working on that day with the rest of the team on a group message. Some will need to stay connected with a VoIP-based calling system that offers digital voicemail, multichannel messaging and call handoff to their mobile. Others may want to conduct face-to-face meetings with video chat.

Find the options and schedule that works best for your team and agree on some guidelines to keep everyone in the loop and on target.

3. Safeguard important data

Every year, millions of US records are exposed by online data breaches. Data security is a top concern for all businesses. And if you work with a remote team, the majority – if not all – of your important data will be stored online.

Ensure your staff is updated on the latest online security best practices. Things such as developing strong and unique passwords (a password manager is a great tool to keep track of these) and multi-factor authentication are simple ways to keep your business, staff, and client data protected.

Make sure your BYOD policy is thorough enough to guide employees on how to handle, access, and secure their devices used for company activity, and update company-owned devices regularly to ensure maximum protection. Set backup schedules and network permissions to ensure total protection against unauthorized activity.

4. Trust your team

Will my staff actually do their work if I allow them to work at home? Can we maintain the same work quality and turnaround standards? These are some of the most common concerns business managers have when transitioning to a remote team.

To ease these worries, first, trust your team. If they work responsibly in the office, chances are they will work responsibly at home. What’s more, many employees may have already had experience working in a remote team so they know how to get the most out of their day.

To add accountability and align expectations across the team, establish communication and work-from-home guidelines. For example, request client responses within one business day, require internal email responses the same business day, and limit scheduled calls to business hours to ensure your staff isn’t working around the clock.

5. Set clear expectations

Everyone has their own idea of what doing something ‘fast’ or to a ‘high standard’ means. It’s a good idea to set clear expectations on what you expect to be done.

One way to do this is to set goals, schedules and deadlines to avoid misunderstandings. Use project management and calendar apps to share project information, keep activity flowing and achieve important milestones on time and on target.

Final thoughts

For an increasing number of industries, remote work is becoming more than a rare option. It’s becoming a standard. And if you’re looking for ways to attract the best staff, you definitely need to be equipped for remote employees.

Just make sure you approach remote work the right way. The above tips will give you a solid foundation for a flexible, productive, agile remote workforce.