Remote working has changed how and where we can do our jobs. Now, it’s possible to take your laptop on the road and do a full day’s work virtually anywhere in the world.These new ‘workations’ combine work and leisure, allowing employees to go off-site for long periods while still being productive and contributing to their companies. However, mixing work with leisure comes with some risks, including theft and physical damage, as well as creating potential cybersecurity issues. This article will explore how to stay one step ahead of opportunistic hackers targeting workation goers. You’ll discover simple but effective ways of fortifying your laptop against several threats, ensuring that your work off-site doesn’t compromise your security.
The pros and cons of bringing your laptop on a workation
Whether it’s a byproduct of the global pandemic or advances in technology and connectivity, workations are fast becoming a common demand from employees and a huge incentive for businesses to grant. A study from 2022 found that over 86% of employees who went on a workation reported a boost in productivity, with 83% saying it helped them cope with burnout. More importantly, 69% said they were less likely to quit their job following a workation, showing that the phenomenon is essential to staff retention. Unfortunately, there are some dangers to a workation that may put entire businesses at significant risk if the employee is ill-prepared. This is because many people travel with laptops containing vast amounts of sensitive data. Opportunistic hackers can target travelers, steal this valuable data, and sell it on the dark web for a profit. This can attract other hackers to launch cyberattacks in the future. Such data may include everything from a person’s password and financial information to personal information like email addresses and phone numbers, as well as classified work documents. In addition to cybercrime, there are physical dangers and legal requirements that many employees often forget about when on a trip. These pose an equal risk of jeopardizing data compliance and ruining a workation before it even begins.
How to protect your laptop when on a Workation
So how can an employee mix leisure and work together for the best workation possible? Below are five key areas employees should be mindful of, both online and offline, before their next working trip:
1. Be aware of laws regarding laptops
Before jetting off on vacation with your laptop, review the laws and regulations of the country you’re entering beforehand. This is because some countries have policies that permit officials to check and verify a laptop’s content during security checks. If you are entering the US from abroad, for example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reserves the right to open and examine the contents of your laptop. They can even confiscate it if they feel it appropriate. It’s especially important to keep this in mind if you’re working on highly sensitive or classified materials. The potential threat of your laptop being opened, examined, and taken away from you for your entire trip could stop your workation before it even begins!
2. Protect your laptop from ‘visual hacking’
When on vacation, we naturally let our guard down. We’re in a new place and think that no one truly knows what we’re doing or working on. Unfortunately, opportunistic hackers can use this complacency to their advantage. As you work quietly on your laptop, they may be watching from an angle, spying on your screen in person to see what you’re looking at and, more importantly, what you’re typing. Ensure your screen is protected from passersby, especially on public transport or in busy cafes, where people can easily sit beside or behind you. If you’re ever leaving your workspace, remember to turn off your laptop and take it with you. Never leave your screen open and idle at any stage. Moreover, invest in a privacy screen that only allows a direct view from the computer screen at close range.
3. Avoid using public facilities—use only trusted equipment
Before your trip, remember to pack everything your laptop needs, including chargers and cables. This is important because a growing cyberattack, known as juice jacking, is taking advantage of ill-prepared workers. In May 2023, the FBI warned travelers to avoid charging portable devices like laptops and smartphones from public charging stations. Such stations are often found in traveler-friendly places like airports, train stations, and shopping malls. These facilities may be tampered with to inject malware directly into connected devices and export personal data to the hacker. To avoid this threat, travelers should carry spare external batteries to switch to or external power banks they can charge from. They should only use official cables supplied by reputable brands and never allow devices to exchange data during charging. Similarly, be wary of using free Wi-Fi networks to do your work. These can be under surveillance by hackers, who monitor user activity across the entire network. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure your online activity is kept safe, secure, and encrypted.
4. Protect your laptop from the elements
An often-forgotten part of bringing your laptop to a workstation is physically protecting it from harm. This is because other countries might have extreme weather and different voltage requirements, all of which can damage or compromise your laptop. For example, when visiting a country, research their electricity standards, including what plugs and sockets they use and the voltages dispersed. The Electrical Safety First website has a catalog of every country and their electricity requirements to help inform travelers on what adapters to work on their travels. Additionally, pay close attention to the weather and elements of your destination.
- For hot countries, avoid leaving your laptop in direct sunlight or its bag for too long. Exposure to heat for prolonged periods can cause irreversible damage to laptop parts.
- For cold countries, opt for a well-padded, insulated carry case to protect your laptop from a drop in temperature. Allow your laptop to acclimate to room temperature before turning it on to prevent condensation from forming inside.
5. Don’t forget basic cybersecurity practices
Cybercriminals never take a vacation, and while you might enjoy yourself on a workation, they are always busy developing new ways to attack you. It is critical to your cybersecurity to put in place basic precautions. Before traveling, it’s crucial to perform a data backup of your laptop. This way, you will still be able to retrieve work files in case of theft, loss, or a cyberattack. Set stronger passwords of 12 to 14 characters, using upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. For further security, you should also activate biometric logins and multi-factor authentication on all your accounts.
Don’t forget to review the security settings for your laptop to ensure you’re not exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. Disable automatic connections to prevent you from connecting to unsecured networks you pass by. Finally, you should always ensure that your laptop’s operating system, software, and plugins are up-to-date before and during your work. Enable automatic updates so that you’re constantly protected by new security patches, ensuring you’re defended against emerging threats.