Business is global! The internet has changed the way in which business works and many workers from company CEOs to sales execs and even lower level staff are now doing business on a global scale.
From the biggest multinational corporations to the small “one man business” trading and working with global partners has never been easier. The increase in travel for business reasons has lead to an dark world of espionage, hacking and spying on business travellers from all backgrounds.
Dark Hotels target business travellers
Leading Russian anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab, creators of the famous Kaspersky internet and anti-virus products recently revealed that hackers have been targeting business users in countries such as China, Russia and a handful of other Asian countries when visiting top end hotels.
Trojan software which allows attackers to access laptops and other devices remotely and also record screen grabs, login and password details plus more have been surreptitiously installed on business travellers machines.
Anyone who has travelled for business will know that relying on your laptop or tablet is essential when working abroad and getting an internet connection is a priority. Many of you will have logged in to the hotel wi-fi access point at the first opportunity and quickly clicked through any update notices that come through so you can get down to the business of… well, business.
Kaspersky discovered that criminal gangs have been sending false update notices to business travellers accessing hotel wi-fi networks. So while you think you’re updating Adobe Flash, Windows or whatever other seemingly non-suspicious program, you may actually be installing malicious malware on to your companies laptop.
Top tips to avoid malware when logging into wi-fi
- Install software updates before you travel, not after.
- Be especially wary of updates for Adobe Flash, GoogleToolbar, Windows Messenger or other common software.
- Japan, Taiwan, China, Russia and Korea as where most users are infected, be extra vigilant here.
- Look out for unusual pop-ups requesting you to confirm or accept when connecting to hotel wi-fi.
Kaspersky Lab reports that criminals in what are being called Dark Hotels actually target individuals based on certain markers such as the company they work for or if they’re part of a government. Travellers who are known to be attending conferences or where it is likely the hotel you’ll be staying in is connected to a known conference or meeting should be especially wary.
Even those who aren’t top executives or government officials could be caught out so caution should be exercised.
Public wi-fi is not secure for business travellers
Another worrying way that company secrets could be stolen is actually just by using the same wi-fi network as a criminal. When connecting to public wi-fi especially in hotels, airports and places like restaurants the data being transmitted via the wi-fi network is not encrypted. This means under certain circumstances that hackers can delve in to what you’re accessing online.
Even a simple tool available to everyone called Wireshark can let a malicious hacker login to your Facebook account at the same time as you do, from here they could uncover secrets or use social engineering to coerce your colleagues to release sensitive information or carry out actions on your behalf.
Using a VPN connection can encrypt your sensitive documents
Many large corporations offer VPN connections to enable you to access your desktop or corporate files. A VPN offers an encrypted connection which would thwart any attempt to intercept your data on public wi-fi.
Many of us only access the company VPN connection to access work data but by connecting to it each time you travel you not only encrypt your connection but you also automatically protect your companies sensitive information from being stolen in this manner.
Not all companies offer VPN connections especially smaller sized businesses or if you’re self employed then you’re on your own. For those who don’t have a company VPN there are commercial VPN providers who offer the same encrypted connection for a small price of around US$5-$10 per month. A few to consider are IPVanish, VyprVPN or HideMyAss who are all good for business travellers worldwide.
Top tips for avoiding wi-fi snoopers
- Be wary of wi-fi connections with no password.
- Confirm with the hotel, restaurant or bar the full name of their wi-fi access point, criminals can impersonate with similar names.
- Connect to your company VPN connection at all times when travelling abroad.
- If you have no company VPN, consider a commercial provider such as IPVanish or one of the others mentioned.
While you can’t always protect against hackers when travelling for business at least by following our handy tips you can certainly limit your likelihood to falling fowl of the criminal types intent on stealing your business secrets or government details.