Information Risks of Travel

So, you’re on the road for work again, are you? Or, you’re heading out soon? Regardless of when, if you travel for work you should know about the information risks of travel and how it increases the risk of identity theft and, therefore, future social engineering attempts.

Information Risks of Travel

How does travel affect identity theft?

When you pack up to go on a trip, work or personal, you take at least two items that contain sensitive, personally identifiably information: your license, and your ticket or a device that contains your ticket. A malicious actor’s desire to duplicate this information means travel increases the risk of information theft. When traveling you consolidate all your information, and your company’s information, to your person and transport it through, and to, locations and environment with which you are unfamiliar. This puts you at a disadvantage. 

Your driver’s license contains extremely sensitive information such as your name, birthday, signature, address, and license number. Your ticket has a bar or QR code that, because it can be read by the airline’s scanner, can be read by many scanners. This includes valuable information like your confirmation number, sensitive PII, and often airline rewards numbers. These details can be used in social engineering attacks like spear-phishing or phishing campaigns against you. 

In addition to your license and ticket information, travel increases the risk of information theft because you are likely carrying technology used to connect to networks which can leave your and your company’s information increasingly vulnerable. However, you have control over how this information is exposed. 

How can we protect ourselves and our PII while traveling?

Always be alert and aware. For physical items, have an organizational system where you know what information exists where. Keeping a dedicated location, such as a specific pocket, for your ticket and only your ticket will reduce the risk that the ticket is left in the open where its code can be photographed or scanned. Maintain a separate and dedicated area for any payment options, like cash or credit cards, and another still for your license. Keeping these items separated will mean a pickpocket would have less of an opportunity to lift the documents all together, reducing the information they have as well as the replacement hassle, and it will also limit accidentally dropping or exposing one while using another. 

Technology is a separate hurdle where travel increases the risk of information theft that can expose both you and your company. Recently, the list of the top 10 airports travelers are most likely to be hacked in was released. The list makes it clear that frequent travelers will struggle to avoid all these airports, and other airports pose a threat even if they are not included in this list. The information obtained from your devices or person while traveling could lead to future social engineering attacks by exposing information that can be used to launch a sophisticated phishing campaign targeted at a known operating system or type of computer based on information gathered by an attacker while traveling. 

Let’s discuss some ways to travel safely with your devices:  

  • Don’t join public WiFi. Download necessary documents to work on or entertainment options before leaving a secure network;  
  • Travel with a personal hotspot to use your own network you tether your devices to; 
  • Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for personal use. We recommend researching VPN options and using one that limits the leakage of information, then using a secure VPN on all your devices. Generally, the free VPN options are not the most secure; 
  • Avoid plugging your devices into un-known ports, and avoid plugging anything unknown into your devices;  
  • Purchase privacy screens for devices you plan to use in public to avoid anyone shoulder-surfing you for information; 
  • Avoiding sharing geolocation information while traveling; and 
  • Be vague in any Out-Of-Office messages you may leave on your email account. Information left in OOO messages can be used by malicious actors without your immediate knowledge, or without your knowledge at all. These can indicate your absence from the office which could allow for bad actor to impersonate you while you are away. 

Stay alert and aware! 


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