It has been estimated that within todays espionage era of obtaining critical company data, it costs the UK business community between £20 and £30bn per year.
What is staggering is that in most cases those organisations who have been breached do not realise they are victims of data theft. For those that do identify a violation are in many cases reluctant to make their encroachment public as the potential of damaging reputation and relationships with stakeholders or even shareholders brings unwanted challenges.
It is therefore critical that employers & employees understand how to mitigate potential risks to data theft.
In most cases, we control access to information with guidance through company policies and procedures, thus ensuring data is distributed, stored, disseminated or destroyed in the appropriate manner. Within the global business world however, are guidelines enough to protect critical data? We all live in a fast-growing information society, and with that comes the ever-increasing risk of theft. It is widely acknowledged that those who seek to relieve us of our information are fully conversant with increased vulnerability to our data when conducting business travel. We must therefore understand how to reduce this risk to company critical data during this time.
Firstly, think about what information needs to be stored on your devices, and how to reduce the amount of information required for that trip! Do you need to have the whole content of your secure cloud on your device? Take what is needed and no more. Consider the use of encrypted data storage devices that can be kept on you always, never leave critical data unattended. Iron keys are a perfect mobile encrypted storage device.
Other than devices such as laptops, mobile phones, cloud space and mass storage platforms, we must consider the oldest storage device known to man! Our brains, we must consider what potential information you may divulge and to whom. In most cases, some company information you believe you have disclosed is none critical. However, when collated together with other information obtained, it could lead to the discovery of important or sensitive information that is vital to competitors and damaging to your company.
It is not just where our company information is stored but also how we access it. Certain environments are more vulnerable to data theft, which is mainly due to a high concentration of potential victims and the routines business travellers tend to exert there. Hotel lobbies, departure lounges/bars and coffee shops are the places we mostly conduct meetings or decided to catch up on some uninterrupted work time. Always be mindful of who has visual access to your device screens and passwords. It sounds basic and common sense, yet we see business travellers continually compromise data in this way.
Verbal data leakage is another common way in which we compromise the integrity of commercial critical date and this can be achieved by having what you believe is a simple phone call back to the office. When we talk on the phone we lose visual perception and detection. This means we become less aware of our surroundings and those who could be taking an interest in what we are discussing. Furthermore, our volume pitch increases naturally when we talk on the phone and if you use both headphones on hands free this generally increases the volume.
In all, it’s in everyones interest to maintain the critical information within their control for the organisation they represent when travelling. This can be policy and process driven but should also be applied practically. That means ensuring us as individuals know how we can negatively impact the information security of our companies and just as important, how we can conduct business when travelling to ensure its access or theft is not accessible.