We’re all at risk from corporate data theft when travelling for business.
It’s estimated that 40% of data breaches are caused by external intrusions, and with cyber criminals developing increasingly sophisticated methods for stealing information from business travellers’ mobile devices, vigilance remains key.
In this post, we’ve picked out eleven travel destinations where your data is most likely to be compromised – and steps you can take to protect your data while travelling.
The largest country in Africa, Algeria remains on the Priority Watch List maintained by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, due to a lack of transparency over the use of undisclosed data in particular trades (most notably, pharmaceuticals).
The US is also concerned about Algeria’s desire to enforce intellectual property rights (IPR), and the country’s ability to tackle anti-piracy, making the region a prime location for data theft.
If you’re heading to South America to do business in Argentina, it’s important to bear in mind the lack of IPR enforcement in that area.
With few deterrent sentences and the notorious La Salada market in Buenos Aires brazenly selling pirated goods, data theft and IPR infringement is rife in Argentina.
Despite Chile’s desire to increase IP enforcement, there remains a significant issue with piracy over the internet in one of Argentina’s closest neighbours.
Although focused mainly on the country’s ability to keep unlicensed software use and patent infringement under control, the US’ close eye on Chile suggests data theft remains a significant problem in this country.
A large degree of uncertainty surrounds China’s desire to deal effectively with intellectual property infringement.
Rampant piracy and counterfeiting are a leading concern for businesses operating in China, and with IPR infringements difficult to prevent and remediate, data theft remains a significant threat for business travellers.
High-level national initiatives such as “Start-up India” have made it an attractive place for new businesses, but that might come at the expense of data security.
Industry losses from the piracy of movies and music in India are thought to be around $4bn per year (source), suggesting that data protection is a significant problem in this region.
The fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia suffers from widespread piracy and counterfeiting.
Arguably, this could be due to the lack of significant deterrents for IPR infringement – particularly when it comes to that which pertains to data use.
In 2014, Kuwait failed to introduce a copyright law that was consistent with international standards.
The lack of effective enforcement against trademark infringement makes data a valuable commodity in Kuwait, and that should be of particular concern to business travellers.
Online piracy is considered a persistent problem in Russia.
Social networking site vKontakte, for example, thought by many to facilitate piracy, and the lack of enforcement for trademarks in Russia makes it a perilous place for business and personal data.
While Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has publicly acknowledged the importance of IPR, their recent redrafting of the Copyright Act failed to address foreign concerns over data infringement.
Widespread, admitted use of unlicensed software by Ukrainian government agencies (source), has done little to prevent growing online copyright infringement in the country.
Attempts to improve the government’s response to online data infringement have stalled, making the Ukraine a risky place in which to carry confidential business data.
Venezuela’s formal withdrawal from the Andean Community trade bloc in 2006 created legal ambiguity for the protection of intellectual data which still exists today.
The country’s Autonomous Intellectual Property Service (SAPI) is reported to regularly approve patents that are identical to registered trademarks, suggesting data theft remains a very real problem in the South American federal republic.
How do I protect my data while travelling for business?
Despite the threats to business data while travelling, there are several things you can do to remain vigilant:
- use removable hard drives to keep sensitive data separate from that of your laptop
- compartmentalise your data – never leave everything on one device or hard drive
- ensure you have access to ‘remote wipe’ software that can destroy data on stolen devices
- don’t use open Wi-Fi, and connect to your work VPN via another, separate VPN
- reset your passwords every 30 days
These tips don’t just apply to high risk countries. Even domestic travel can expose your data to risks, so the tips above for data security apply wherever you are; do everything you can to keep your data safe.