Personal and Digital Security During Travel

By February 25, 2014 Protection

Risks and uncertainties increase when you are on the road with your computing and communications equipment. When you travel, you and your property can be subjected to a variety of threats. Criminal, espionage and terrorism dangers require that you take appropriate steps to increase your security and mitigate your risks when you are away from your home and office.

Personal Security

Business traveler securityThe most important thing is to determine the nature of potential threats you and your property will likely face, and what you need to do to protect yourself, your associates and your information. Situational awareness is critical. You need to focus on your surroundings that are probably very different from what you are used to. In moderate or high-risk locales this includes simple steps like avoiding alcohol or anything else that might impair your judgment.

Here is a list of steps you will want to consider.

Before You Travel

  • Learn a little about the place you’re going to and the people you’re likely to meet by reading travel advisories and consulting with your security and office travel department. The US Department of State has a very well developed advisory and warning website:
  • It’s always a good idea to know some of the language and to carry a bi-lingual dictionary so in a worst case scenario you can point to the English with the foreign language next to it.
  • Prepare emergency alert technologies (e.g., employee tracking system)
  • Create an itinerary and let others know about it (for emergency purposes)
  • Make copies of your passport and other essential documents/cards and keep them secure. Keep one copy with you (separate from the originals), and give another copy to a trusted person who will be able to send them to you fast in case you need them.
  • Give a copy of all essential documents to an emergency contact
  • Leave fancy jewelry and other expensive items behind (in a safe place)
  • Don’t paint a “target” on your back – prepare (and wear) sensible, and politically neutral clothes. Avoid shirts and jackets with images or expressions that could offend others.

On Location

  • Take a minute to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings (emergency exits, essential phone numbers, available hospitals and other emergency services) Have an escape route prepared. Stay alert to the people around you.
  • Be wary of people requesting help (directions, change, time, a cigarette, etc.). Some rapists, purse-snatchers, and other criminals use this approach to judge how compliant a person is and to get physically close to them.
  • Lock all unnecessary documents and other valuables in your room safe.
  • Ask local contacts for a list of places you should avoid.
  • Use only official transport; better yet, use a trusted service with qualified staff.
  • Carry as little cash and valuables as possible.
  • Keep an emergency contact tool and numbers (e.g., Embassy) within reach at all times.
  • Avoid getting into arguments with locals. When in doubt, disengage.
  • Trust and verify – do not take unsolicited advice/food/drink without exercising good judgment.
  • Be aware of the people around you when conducting business conversations outside the workplace.
  • If you feel insecure, disengage and move away quickly, but calmly.

If/When Worse Comes to Worse

  •  Don’t argue with robbers; acquiesce and disengage as fast as possible.
  • Contact trusted officials ASAP.
  • If you find yourself in a firefight, drop to the ground immediately.
  • Hide as soon as you can (seek hardened shelter whenever possible; seek shelter that will enable observation without being detected).
  • Try to locate the attacker without being located yourself.
  • If you cannot hide, run, but only if you do not present an immediate moving target.
  • Get your hands on something that’ll enable you to fight back (a golf club, screwdriver, a mannequin’s leg, even a brick).
  • If you cannot run, fight.

In the Event of a Shooting

Because every shooting event is different, there is not a single correct response to all situations. Instead, each individual should be aware of the various options that may exist in each type of situation.

If you hear shots fired in your vicinity

  • Stay away from the affected area or building.
  • Be alert to the environment and prepared to take any protective actions needed.
  • Follow directions of law enforcement personnel.

If you hear shots fired outside your building

  • Lock all doors and windows and turn off the lights.
  • Have one person in the room call 911 or other emergency number and be prepared to tell the dispatcher the building and room number you are in, your name and any information you have about the shooter or incident.
  • Remain in the room until advised by law enforcement personnel to exit the building.

If you hear shots fired inside your building

  • One option is to exit the building if it appears safe to do so, especially if you are near an exit and there is a nearby area to take shelter away from the building.
  • A second viable option may be to proceed to a room that can be locked or barricaded; turn off all lights, close window blinds, silence cell phones and other audio devices. Call an emergency number, remain quiet and do not answer the door.

If a shooter enters the room or area you are in

  • If an intruder enters your location and begins shooting, there is no standard procedure recommended by authorities. Potential options include:
  • Remain docile and hope that the shooter does not target you.
  • Attempt to reason or negotiate with the assailant.
  • Escape by running from the area.
  • Overpower the assailant with force, possibly as a group with others.

Digital Security

Digital SecurityWe all travel with electronics – smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Sometimes it’s best to leave yours at home in order to minimize your grid footprint. Perhaps rent specific devices for the trip as an alternative, or ensure that the devices you are taking are secure, yet will comply with the laws of your destination countries.

Before you travel

  • Disable and tape over any integrated laptop cameras.
  • Disconnect any integrated laptop microphones.
  • Install a privacy screen on your laptop.
  • Disable file sharing.
  • Disable all unnecessary network connections.
  • Backup all necessary data (make sure the backup is encrypted and accessible).
  • If you don’t have a proper email encryption system, create a temporary “throw away” email account that can be used to send those emails you must send.
  • Employ encryption and be sure it complies with the laws of countries in which you will be travelling through and stopping.

On Location

  • Take with you only devices you absolutely must have. If at all possible, use temporary or replacement devices (e.g., USB drive instead of a whole computer).
  • If you do take computers with you, make sure they contain only the data you need for the trip.
  • Use a prepaid local phone (especially when on the streets).
  • Encrypt all confidential data.
  • Change your relevant login passwords. Take time to create complex passwords.
  • Upon returning home, change all your essential passwords again.
  • Turn off all devices when not in use.
  • Assume that all communications, particularly over the Internet, can (and will) be intercepted.
  • Encrypt confidential communications. Make sure you have the proper software and that you know how to use it.
  • Never put your data on shared computers in cyber cafes, hotel business centers, or devices belonging to other travelers, colleagues, or friends.
  • If possible, reformat your computer’s hard drive upon returning home.
  • Upon returning from your travels, immediately discontinue use of the device(s) and have them scrubbed.

A little bit of common sense and planning will go a long way to ensure that your trip is uneventful and, should something go wrong, you will be ready for it. TAL Global’s personal security experts will be glad to provide all the necessary help and guidance to ensure a safe and secure trip.

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