This blog was written by Candace Worley, McAfee’s former Vice President and Chief Technical Strategist.
Ah – Labor Day weekend, that blissful time of travel, BBQs, discovery, relaxation, and hunting for a Wi-Fi connection so that you can check your work email. While it may be good for the company that employees are staying connected, if they are not practicing safe connections they may be putting the company at risk.
Most employees probably start out intending to unplug during the long weekend, whether to get some needed stress relief, take a break from work, or just out of respect to those that they are visiting with. Unfortunately, only 45% are successful at remaining unplugged on vacation, according to a recent survey by McAfee. What’s more, if it wasn’t for the anxiety of dealing with some work obligations, whether stated or implied, 57% would prefer to be completely unplugged.
It’s usually the phone that gets them. While the large majority of people are willing to leave their laptop (72%) and their tablet (60%) at home, only 27% are willing to leave the phone behind. This is often for good reasons, staying in touch with family and friends, getting directions, or looking up local attractions or restaurants. But, with the phone nearby, most can’t go very long without a digital work fix. More than half of those surveyed will spend at least an hour a day over the holiday weekend on some type of connected device, checking email, social media, or texts.
The ubiquity of Wi-Fi makes it easy to sneak in a quick work check and even though there may not be an easy way to check the security of available connections, most people connect anyway. 51% connect even if they can’t confirm the security of the network. When traveling, most people (72%) use the hotel internet to remain connected, while others look for an internet café or some other public Wi-Fi. Public W-Fi networks can be compromised by cybercriminals, who use them to steal credentials, intercept sensitive documents, and install malware on connected devices.
Relaxation clouds the judgement of many vacationers with 20% not even thinking about the security of the Wi-Fi networks they tap into. Urgency is a major factor. The more urgently they feel the need to connect, the less likely they are to worry about security. Thus, a Labor Day vacation for one employee can result in Labor Day headlines for the company and holiday overtime for your security team.
As connected people, we understand the lure of the internet, and the anxiety that many feel at being completely unplugged. So, we have a few WiFi hygiene tips for those who need to connect over the long weekend.
Some tips for employees to connect safely while on vacation
- Browse securely when away from home. If employees can’t resist the call of the Wi-Fi, they should make sure that they are connecting securely, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep information private and ensure that data goes straight from the device to where they are connecting.
- Ensure devices are updated. Make sure devices’ operating system and applications are kept updated. Using old versions of software could leave you open to security vulnerabilities.
- Apply comprehensive security. Ensure devices are updated with the latest comprehensive security software to ensure connected devices stay clear of viruses and other unwanted malware.
- Use a device locating app. If a device is lost, it can be very difficult to recover. Location applications can help you find, lock, and even erase a device’s data in the event of loss or theft.
Taking a few minutes to check these items off your list, before you don your flip-flops, position your sunglasses and head out into the traffic melee that heralds the last holiday of summer, will ensure that sneaking in a few emails from the beach doesn’t put you or your company’s digital assets at risk. Enjoy!