Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Newsletter: Protecting Your Data as You Travel

As if travel in general isn't stressful enough! As business travelers we have the additional responsibility of protecting the intellectual property we carry around, whether it belongs our own company or to an employer. When I traveled for Microsoft back in the late 1990s a username and password was sufficient. In the early 2000s, smart card technology was added to our regimen because Windows 2000 supported it. That meant that we had to have a smart card reader to plug into our laptops, and had use our badge with the embedded chip on it to authenticate to our laptops and to the corporate network. Some US companies embraced smart cards; many still resist having some kind of third aspect of authentication before users can log in.

Europeans have been using smart card technology for years. When we first introduced the support in Windows 2000 at the European TechEd conference, it was greeted with comments like "what took you so long?" And "it's about time."

What Do You Take With You?

I was reading an article from Business Travel News this week that drove home the point. Are you taking with you files that aren't necessary? Do you have more data at risk on your laptop than is wise to allow?

Now with the accessibility of cloud storage, it's possible to stow those reports or stash your presentation where others cannot reach it. The level of security varies from provider to provider, so you need to examine carefully what measures they take to protect your data.

Encryption can go a long way towards keeping prying eyes away from one's data. Depending on your cloud provider, you can either encrypt files before they get to the cloud, or have your cloud provider encrypt them afterwards. There are advantages to both approaches; it just depends on your needs.

I'm a big fan of Amazon Web Services' cloud storage they call Simple Storage Service or S3. I used it for years before I worked at AWS, and I like it even more now. Amazon S3 lets you park your data in S3 using their Management Console, to which you can add something called Multi-Factor Authentication, or MFA, for the master account.


You can also implement a user scheme that lets you create groups with specific permissions and assign users to the groups. It's really ideal for business travelers who need access to their data without the company giving master access to everyone. The name for that service is Identity and Access Management, or IAM.


I recently set one of my clients up on Amazon S3 using IAM, and was able to give individual logins and credentials to each employee in their small business. If an employee doesn't work out, for example, their access to the intellectual property stored in S3 can be removed without causing problems for everyone else.

Physical Safety of Your Hardware

Traveling as a business person can be lonely for a lot of reasons, but it is especially frustrating when you need someone to "watch your stuff" for you. I am guilty of allowing a seemingly nice person who's been sitting next to me in the airline lounge watch over my laptop while I run off to the bathroom for "just a minute." I did lock the desktop and close the lid, but being away for just a minute is all it takes for you to lose everything.

The alternative to leaving your laptop behind while others watch over it is to tuck it into your bag and lock your bag to a fixture such as a desk or workstation or heavy chair: I've done that too and been fortunate to return and find everything where I left it.

It's probably best to simply not leave your laptop unattended, even with nice people watching over it. That means planning your trips to the lavatory carefully, perhaps upon arrival and departure when your items are already packed in your rolling laptop bag.

These days you must treat your smartphone with the same care as your passport: never EVER let them out of your sight. Think carefully about what you store on your phone. All you have to consider is the havoc someone can wreak on your life if you forget to log out of your banking app or your LinkedIn account. That ought to give you the shivers!

Got any horror stories or advice to share? Add them in the Comments below, and I'll include them in a future newsletter.
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