Traveling overseas on business is exciting and rewarding and thwart with some hidden dangers including being scammed. In my experience in some countries business travellers are a better target than your average holiday maker or tourist. Not only do that have the usual treasures like money and valuable they also have sensitive and confidential business information which is highly attractive especially in countries where stealing trade secrets may not be considered a crime or worth pursuing by the local authorities.
Therefore when travelling for business it pays to be aware of threats such as kidnapping, tampering with your computer even when it’s “secured” in the hotel safe and also social engineering by an attractive stranger in the hotel bar.
In this article I have provided my top business travel security tips for business travellers and I encourage you to also do your own research including visiting your government’s travel advisory website to gain country-specific security recommendations for extra guidance.
Top Business Travel Security Tips
Thoroughly research every hotel you are considering staying at for crime, frequent loss of valuables, complaints of extra charging to credit cards etc. Hotels can be a haven for crime and since you are on business any confidential business information you are carrying be-it paper-form or on your computer may make you a target.
2. Food and Drink
Do not accept food or drink from strangers in hotels/bars/public dining spots etc. as drugs may have been added to the food or drink which may cause you to black-out or worse. This may seem slightly “James Bond” like but drugs are cheap in many countries and people have no qualms on drugging people. An overdose could result in permanent physical damage. When at bar I ask for a beer in a bottle and make sure the bottle is opened in-front of me to avoid any drugs being added before I am served.
Only use ATM’s attached to a bank as some enterprising individuals have been known to place dummy ATMs in malls and other public areas.
Check your Embassy website for any warnings regarding the countries and cities you are planning to visit. Also, search online for any well-known scams in the country and/or city you’re visiting. Some scams are only used in high tourist season for example professional pic-pockets only frequent major tourist sites during the summer season.
Make sure you use high-quality luggage and back-packs when traveling to destinations known for pic-pockets. Often criminals will use a box-cutter or a knife to cut the straps of your pack or cut the bottom of the pack while you are walking! I use gear from Pacsafe as they have additional anti-theft mechanisms added such as stainless steel wire cords integrated into the pack’s straps making it extremely hard to cut the straps.
Before you grab a taxi try and find out how much the fare to your destination should cost. I always check with the hotel staff on how much a fare is likely to be. I also get taxis from a hotel taxi queue as they are normally known to hotel staff and more reputable taxi firms are only allowed to queue. If you have to hail down a taxi then make sure the taxi is with a known company and has it’s branding on the car. Uber is not a bad choice as long as you can confirm the driver is with Uber.
7. Valuables & Documents
Avoid wearing or carrying valuables and use the hotel main safe not the safe in your hotel room to store them and your sensitive or confidential information. I always carry a small amount of cash and one debit card that only has the funds I need on it. I pay cash for everything unless it’s an expensive item. When I am back in the hotel room I will use online banking to top-up the debit card when needed (see IT security below).
For sensitive information such as bank account details, passwords and documents use a USB that can encrypt the information and requires a password to decrypt the information for your use. I use IronKey as not only is the content encrypted with strong encryption but you can set the IronKey to ” self-destruct” after a certain number of failed login attempts – wiping all the information off the USB. They are expensive but you won’t be worried about the price of the USB if you lose it and you know your data such as bank account details are secure.
Make sure you have a strong login password for your computer and consider encrypting your computers drive. If you need to leave your computer unattended in the hotel room check the computer for any signs of tampering. Try and remember the exact position you left the computer in – if it appears to be in a different position from what you left it in when you come back consider the computer compromised, this includes storing the computer in the room or hotel safe. (https://blog.malwarebytes.com/cybercrime/2015/10/leaving-laptops-in-hotel-rooms-a-bad-idea/)
Use VPN when accessing the Internet if you are using local internet connections such as wifi – including hotel wifi! There have been many cases of organised crime accessing hotel wifi at well-known hotels for business executives stealing sensitive information off the executives computer and its not a long stretch of the imagination that anyone can be a target, not just execs. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/10/hotel-wi-fi-infected-business-travellers-asia-kaspersky).
If possible avoid any Internet cafes or offers of free Internet access such as hotel wifi as there is a very good chance that the “free” and “public” wifi is hosted by organised crime with the ability to scan your network traffic and steal your data. Treat all computers at Internet cafes as infected with malware – do not at any time conduct business on these computers, if you have to because of an emergency treat the information you transmitted through that computer as compromised.
10. Cultural Sensitivities
Be aware of the culture sensitivities of your destination county. You may attract undue attention from ignorance. Your behaviour in public including overt displays of affection such as kissing, showing too much bare skin or not covering the head in a sacred place, displays of wealth, renting an expensive foreign car etc. can attract unwanted attention.
11. No-Go Zones
Avoid situations where you can place yourself in danger of being attacked or kidnapped. Foreign business travellers are good targets for kidnappings as businesses have deeper pockets to pay ransoms.
Also read this article on our site written by a popular travel writer on top risks when traveling for business and how to counter them.