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Safe Computing on the Road, Part 2

Step Nine: Secure Server

If it's absolutely necessary to send information that includes account or password information over the Internet through a public wireless hotspot, be sure to connect to a secure server.

You'll know you're using a secure server for your transaction by the locked padlock icon on your browser (often in the lower-right-hand corner). This shows that you're using an SSL (secure-sockets layer)-encrypted session.

You can also check that the Web site you're accessing is using a secure server by looking at the URL; a secure server has "https://" in its address, rather than the usual "http://."

Step 10: Data Care

Losing your laptop can really put you in hot water. Almost every day the news is full of data losses leading to identity theft, mostly due to the sloppy handling of a laptop. Your company could lose a lot of market value, and you could be in big trouble.

So this tip is really in two parts:

  1. Don't put more data than you need on your machine for the job you're going to do. Some minor hardware losses have grown into big data disasters due to the loss of a laptop containing all the company's records and client data. You probably don't need to carry around all your company's data when you travel.
  2. Encrypt your data, so if your laptop is lost, hackers can't use it and you're just out the cost of the hardware. Otherwise, anyone who steals and uses your laptop can read everything on it, because it just takes a few minutes to crack your login and password.

    The Feds are now requiring that all mobile devices employ encryption, and Visa and MasterCard, through their PCI initiative, are insisting on data encryption too. There are several companies that sell mobile device encryption software; one good one is Pointsec .

So there are the 10 tips to help make your data safe while you're traveling. For your next trip, though, maybe just find a beach that doesn't have Internet access and tell the boss he can't reach you -- always a safe bet.

Russell Dean Vines is Chief Security Advisor for Gotham Technology LLC and a bestselling author. His most recent book is The CISSP and CAP Prep Guide: Platinum Edition, published by John S. Wiley and Sons.
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