Vacation season is in full swing and so are hackers looking for opportunities to pounce when you're relaxed and your guard is down, especially if as a government employee you might possess extra-valuable information.
The cyber risks begin even before you leave for vacation. Don't be one of those people who announces his travel plans on social media. This information is easily accessed by malicious users hoping to break into your home or work systems to gain access to proprietary and confidential information via remote systems while you are away. This is particularly true for government employees whose systems might be dormant or used by others in their absence.
Resisting the urge to share your travel plans via social media is just the first step in mitigating cyber security risks. Here are some additional tips for government employees who are hitting the road for some needed downtime:
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Cyber crime isn't limited to device data theft, of course. Travelers are also vulnerable to credit card crimes and theft of their financial information. Be wary of ATMs and POS systems. You should use only the devices of companies you know. Cyber criminals have gone as far as to place counterfeit ATMs in public areas to get credit and ATM card data and PINs.
Even when using known companies' machines you should be careful. Cyber criminals frequently place "skimmers" in ATM and POS systems to gather unsuspecting users' personal data. Look closely at the machine to see if there are unusual or loose parts on it. Plastic card readers might be pushed into the card reader to gather your data and transfer it wirelessly. If an ATM or POS system looks strange in any way, do not use it and notify the company.
Finally, never let your credit or ATM card out of your sight. Waiters and cashiers should be able to use portable devices at your table so you can see what they are doing. Portable "skimmers" are easily acquired from the Internet and your service person could steal all your information with a single swipe of your card.
Losing your personal information or devices to thieves affects not only you but your organization or governmental facility. Fortunately, observing these precautions can keep vacation time the carefree downtime you deserve.
Join us at GTEC, Canada's government technology event. Over 6,000 participants attend GTEC -- Government Technology Exhibition And Conference each year to exchange ideas and advance the business of information and communications technology (ICT) in government. Don't miss thought-provoking keynotes, workshops, panels, seminars, and roundtable discussions on a comprehensive selection of ICT topics presented by leading public sector and industry experts. Register for GTEC with marketing code MPIWKGTEC and save $100 on entire event and conference passes or for a free expo pass. It happens Oct. 27 to 30 in Ottawa.Jerry Irvine is a member of the National Cyber Security Task Force and the CIO of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Prescient Solutions, an IT outsourcing firm. View Full Bio