Thanks to the Internet, work doesn’t mean being confined to the office. Laptops and phones have become powerful enough to allow us to complete tasks while traveling. This means freelancers and entrepreneurs can turn just about any location into a work station. Even if you work for someone else, you have a lot of flexibility in where you work. It also means a major productivity boon if you’re traveling on business. At just about any point in your travels, you can get work done — just as long as you’re not driving. But should you? Is it safe for you to be filing reports from airports or coffee shops?
You will never be 100% secure
Every computer is vulnerable. Hackers constantly are inventing new ways to get around security. The best firewalls and security programs can’t keep up with it all. That doesn’t mean you have to give up and never venture out of your office. You need to manage the risks and damage that can be done, control the behaviors that put your data at risk and use tools that can reduce your risk.
Look at the data you have and understand what needs to be protected. You don’t need to protect the tutorials on how to use Lotus Notes or latest industry news. But the list of clients and any work product related to them is worth protection. Then estimate the loss if someone is able to access it. It can be as drastic as a financial settlement or lost revenue when clients find out you can’t protect their information. Once you understand those costs, compare it to the cost of insurance policies and upgraded security measures.
There are simple things you can do to make your data more secure:
- Just don’t store it: Once you take the previous steps of assessing your most sensitive and valuable data, keep it off your laptops and mobile devices. Don’t store billing data on a computer that you’re going to use from a coffee shop.
- Turn off connections when not needed: If you’re not connecting to the Internet, you don’t need to have Wifi running. The same goes for Bluetooth and infrared connectivity. If your business is closed for the day, you’re going to lock the doors. Same logic here. Only make yourself vulnerable when you need to connect. Also, those technologies suck up a lot of power. Turning them off preserves battery life.
- Free Public Wifi: If you see those words when you’re looking for a connection, don’t use it. Basically it’s someone else’s computer who might be looking to access your computer.
- Passwords: Use passwords to control access to your laptops and phones that are better than “123456” or your name. Familiarize yourself with some password creation best practices.
- Stay in control: Don’t leave your devices laying around so that a thief can grab them. Keep them with you or in a secure place. It’s a common sense measure that goes a long way in data protection.
- Encrypt your hard drive: I know I recommended that you protect access to your computer with a password. But there are hackers who can get around that. Protect your vulnerable data better by encrypting it. TrueCrypt is a free program that will allow you to protect it but access it quickly when needed.
- Tracking: LoJack made a name for itself by tracking stolen cars. Now it does the same for stolen laptops. zTrace does the same thing.
- Cleaning up: UnHackMe is an example of software that will remove malware and viruses from your computer. When all else fails, this can get you back to a clean hard drive.
Cloud computing is the buzzword that describes services that allow us to access data, documents and software over the Internet. Security experts don’t see it as any more or less secure than using your local equipment or networks. The key is to make good decisions about what gets stored in clouds and how you access it. Also ask questions about how your provider secures data, backs it up and compensates for breaches.
This is tough material for most of us to understand. You need the advice of someone who can keep up with changes and explain best practices to you. Seek the counsel of your company IT staff or a local security expert. Once you have an understanding of the risks, you can make better decisions.