Pete Nicoletti, Field CISO – Americas, Check Point Software.
The following 31 travel tips should make your journey safer and more productive! As a CISO who travels the world for both business and pleasure, these insights are experience-earned and I am eager to share them with you.
1. Research the particular travel challenges of your destination and review the country specific TSA guidance. Some countries are inspecting laptops and phones at their borders and if you have anything proprietary or questionable on your devices, they could be confiscated and lead to travel delays or worse.
2. Consider using a “Burner” phone and/or laptop and leave your primary gear at home. If your job is sensitive or you have critical contacts or information, you could be targeted, and your gear “cloned” or confiscated. A phone that’s one version older than your existing phone and a Chromebook are an inexpensive way to not worry about your new and expensive gear.
3. Advise your Corporate Security department if you need to work remotely from a different country and ensure you have VPN in place and the ability to connect securely to your corporate network. Some companies will give you a loaner laptop with the minimum config on it to minimize exposure and they will wipe it upon your return.
4. Back up and validate your backups of your phone and laptop. Replacing lost or stolen devices is easy if you have full backups that work!
5. Vacations are rough on phones! Hiking, white water river rafting, running to catch a bus in the rain all lead to dropping or getting your phone wet. Buy a waterproof travel case that supports touch screen access and keep your phone safe!
6. Make a copy of all of your credit cards, passport and ID cards. Keep it separate from your wallet, so if lost, you know all your numbers and can show copies of ID, which is better than nothing and will help the consulate to replace your passport quicker! Laminate a little card with all of your emergency contacts so you have it handy.
7. Do not travel with your little black book of passwords. Try to use a password manager and have a unique password for every site you use. Enable Multifactor authentication for every critical website you use. Make sure you can use MFA SMS messaging in the country you are traveling to.
8. Do not pack your laptop into checked baggage. If you have ever watched a plane being loaded, you will understand this tip.
9. If you travel to an “adversarial” country, assume that your laptop will be copied. Paint the screw heads holding your hard drive in with clear nail polish to see if it has been tampered with. Enable a BIOS password. Place a hair or something small over the keyboard to see if it gets touched or moved while you are out for dinner. If your laptop is touched, assume that it is compromised, and it must be wiped before it is used again.
10. Look into your International cell phone roaming plan and get it in place before travel. If your provider doesn’t have a good plan, consider purchasing a SIM card with a plan before travelling.
11. Limit the circle of friends that know you are traveling. If you announce to the world you are leaving for a three week around the world vacation, there are bad actors that will consider breaking into your home or property while you are gallivanting!
12. Clean up or use new memory or portable storage devices. Don’t bring the only copy of Aunt Bertha’s birthday party pony ride pictures on your vacation!
13. Make sure your laptop and phone OS is updated and you have the latest Anti-virus software installed. Consider the free version from Check Point called zonealarm.com
14. Consider Travel Insurance. Companies like safteywing.com have inexpensive plans for gear replacement and travel impacting heath issues.
15. Make sure you have all your prescription medications clearly labeled and the exact pill is matched up to the right bottle. Don’t travel with anything mislabeled or hidden or illegal. There are shows on Discovery that detail out what foreign jails and treatments are like!
16. Check the voltage and plug for your destination country and have your chargers and cords in order.
17. If you get a email from your airline, or something that might be related to your travel, go directly to the travel site, do not use or click on the URL links that are sent in the email.
18. Buy a laptop screen privacy shield to prevent “shoulder Surfing.” In the close quarters of a plane, its very easy to read a laptop next to you or from behind. Be aware of your nosey neighbors!
19. Do not use public Wi-Fi if at all possible. Try to use tethering off your cell phone. Always fire up your VPN software before doing anything once connected.
20. Keep your documents, memory cards, jewelry and cash locked in the room safe or hotel safe.
21. Don’t be flashy with lots of jewelry or latest tech while you are walking around. Pickpocket gangs are faster than you can react to a purloined asset.
22. Avoid using public PC’s or internet cafés. Assume that any credentials or passwords you use will be stolen. Just use them for public information searches only.
23. Don’t take pictures of places and things that could get you in trouble. Each county has unique requirements and you do not want to have to explain why you have a picture of something sensitive to the state police!
24. Always us use legit transportation. Watch “Taken” if you need a refresher on what not to do!
25. Learn and use the “Checksum Tip Trick” to prevent tip modification by unscrupulous restaurant staff. Figure your tip as you normally would, then adjust it up or down just enough so that when you total the bill with the tip, the last digit in the total is the same as the sum of all the digits to the left of the decimal. This will prevent the waiter from changing your tip without your knowledge.
26. Do not use dodgy ATM’s or cash machines. Go to a legitimate bank or related. Criminals have been known to place cash machines in areas just to collect credentials and will not spit out cash!
27. Return your loaner laptop to Corporate and make sure they wipe it. If your personal laptop was in any risk, restore from your backup.
28. Run your updated AV software to see if there were any “bugs” picked up while traveling.
29. Check your phone company bill for roaming cell/data charges and argue/negotiate a better bill if necessary.
30. Check all of your credit card statements for the correct currency translation and for appropriate charges. There are all kinds of shenanigans that criminals do with your credit card when you’re paying for a nice meal.
31. If you post any pictures of private homes or places that you do not want GPS location information shared, make sure you turn off “location services” for your photos, and/or use a EXIF editor to remove that data before posting. I have located some secret fishing locations from buddies that do not know about this!