The rise of the shoulder surfer and the cyber-perils of executive travel

Last updated: 25 November 2019

Executives who travel frequently today are exposed to cyber risk at every turn. Whether it’s a shoulder surfer trying to see what your CFO is up to on a business class flight, or something more sophisticated: a recent report in The Economist claimed the bosses of some Western firms throw away their phones and laptops after they have been to China as they assume they have been hacked.

So what are the cyber risks executives’ face when traversing the world in search of business opportunities and those all-important face to face meetings? Well, while it depends on each country they visit and how strict border security checks are for instance, there is also much they can do to protect themselves.

The BSA Global Software Survey, conducted by IDC highlighted a number of regions where unlicensed software is widely used, despite the risk of security threats from malware, as well as intrusions by hackers and loss of data. In India in 2013, 60 per cent of software installed on personal computers wasn’t properly licensed. Combined with the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), executives need to be wary of data sharing with when travelling through India.

IT sabotage is said to be especially high for companies in Asia, with those most threatened by cyber-attacks include Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. When traveling to this region, executives will need stronger authentication measures, such as, multi-factor authentication, and may benefit from email encryption to ensure data is protected in transit. Nigeria also recently called for a “clean cyberspace” drive, given cyber threats such as malware, spoofing, phishing, spam, pharming, viruses, trojans and spyware are becoming extremely sophisticated and potentially putting off foreign investments in the country. The risk of a stolen laptop may make the benefits of full disk encryption vital as well.

Luckily there are ways of protecting the globe-trotting executive from this range of threats, including access and identity management software, strong authentication, email and full disk encryption and other digital security measures. As well as following simple rules and guidance, such as only connecting to encrypted WiFi networks (in hotels, airports or other public spaces).

So, how cyber safe do you feel when travelling for business? Are you taking enough security precautions? Let us know @Gemalto.

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