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6 security considerations for using work devices on holiday

The health, productivity and security benefits of taking a two-week break from work are well known but for those who have to check messages or take a work call, what are the security precautions that shouldn't be overlooked while away?

Taking a proper break from work is important not just for our mental and physical health but for the productivity and security of our organisations. An Expedia survey found that 90 per cent of employees feel less stressed and more relaxed after taking annual leave. No surprise there – but annual leave also boosts productivity and team morale, as well as being an important measure to combat internal fraud. Research by Ernst & Young suggests that requiring all employees to take a two-week holiday each year can help companies reduce fraud. EY's Jonathan Middup explained: “The profile of a typical fraudster is a long serving, trusted employee, who works long hours and is reluctant to take their annual leave. Without doubt, one of the most simple and cost-effective anti-fraud measures is to ensure employees take at least two consecutive weeks holiday.”

But with most professionals now taking their laptops, phones and tablets away with them, that window of time spent disconnected from work is almost completely disappearing. This not only diminishes the health benefits of paid annual leave but also means companies are not getting that vital break during which fraud can potentially be uncovered.

6 ways to work safely online – if you have to – on holiday

And there's another, perhaps even more pressing, danger from the growing tendency of checking emails and taking calls poolside – namely security risks from connecting to public wi-fi spots. In this blog, Vasco's Marc Pletinckx provides some really useful suggestions to help professionals stay digitally safe and savvy while away from the office:

  1. Take care over which public networks your devices are connecting to. Adjust settings so that devices can't connect automatically to open wi-fi spots and check the connection's name with the hotel or restaurant. Mr. Pletinckx explains that hackers can “spoof resort wi-fi connections” with similar names as 'Hilton Wifi'. He warns that “by connecting to an unknown network, you could be giving up your login credentials.”
  2. Pletinckx also writes that public wi-fi users should make sure their connection to a website is encrypted – check that the web address begins with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’ – and look for the little padlock in the address bar. Professionals should use VPN connectivity when using business applications online and should also use two-factor authentication on all applications whenever possible.
  3. Having a tracking capability and remote wiping software on your device is essential if it's lost or stolen.
  4. Ideally professionals should keep their work on one device and personal applications on another. This isn't so easy in reality but we should be wary of downloading personal applications onto work devices. Pletinckx underlines the importance of only downloading new applications through the official app stores. He writes: “Attackers target new and trending games and apps, repackage them, and then distribute them through unofficial channels. It may appear as though you are using the official application, but it could be an imposter app with malicious code designed to steal personal information, including banking credentials.”
  5. Also ensure all devices are backed-up and have up-to-date security and operating systems.
  6. A final recommendation is for professionals to seriously consider leaving all work devices in the office. Nobody is that indispensable, provided that adequate coverage is arranged before-hand, and it could be an important way to protect the organisation from both internal and external fraud.

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