Technology has unlocked a new type of worker, unlike any we have seen before—the digital nomad. Digital nomads are people who use technologies like WiFi, smart devices, and cloud-based applications to work from wherever they please. For some digital nomads, this means their favorite coffee shop or co-working space. For others, it means an idyllic beach in Bali or countryside public house. One thing remains true wherever a digital nomad may choose to lay down their temporary roots: They are at a higher cybersecurity risk than a traditional worker. So what risks should they look out for?
Without a doubt, public WiFi is one of the main cybersecurity hazards many digital nomads face. The massive and unresolved flaw in the WPA2 encryption standard used by modern WiFi networks means that anyone connecting to a public network is putting themselves at risk. All public WiFi options—including WiFi provided by hotels, cafes, and airports—poses the risk of not being secure. How can a digital nomad be digital if their main source of internet connectivity is a cybersecurity minefield?
When connecting to public WiFi as a digital nomad, it is crucial to keep your web traffic hidden behind a virtual private network (VPN). A quality VPN app is simple to set up on your mobile devices—including laptops and smart phones—and uses a strong encryption protocol to prevent hackers and other snoops from stealing important personal information such as account passwords, banking information, and private messages. VPNs will keep your data encrypted and secure from prying eyes, regardless of locale.
Physical device theft is a very real risk for digital nomads, but one that can largely be avoided. The first and most obvious step to doing so is to never leave your devices unattended, even if your seatmate at the coffee shop seems trustworthy. Always be mindful of your device visibility; keeping your unattended devices and laptop bags locked away or out of sight in your hotel room is often all it takes to prevent theft. Purchasing a carrying case with a secure access passcode or keyed entry can also act as an additional deterrent against thieves looking for an easy mark.
If your device is stolen, how can you prevent the damage from spiraling? Taking a few defensive measures can save digital nomads major headaches. Keep a device tracker enabled on all of your devices—smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Both Apple and Android have default services that will help you locate your missing device.
But this will only help you find your property; it won’t prevent anyone from accessing the valuable data within. That’s why all of your devices should have a lock screen enabled, secured with either a pin or a biometric ID, such as your fingerprint. If you believe these efforts have failed and your device is compromised, enabling multi-factor authentication on your most sensitive accounts should help reduce the effect of the breach.
However, if you cannot recover your device, remotely wiping it will prevent any additional data from being accessed. If you have a device tracker enabled, you will be able to remotely wipe your sensitive data with that software. If you’re using a data backup solution, any lost files will be recoverable once the status of your devices is secure
Lower Your Risk
Being a digital nomad means that you’re at a higher risk for a breach, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to lower that risk. These best practices could drastically reduce the risk incurred by leading a digitally nomadic lifestyle.
- Toggle off. Remember to always turn off WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity after a session. This will prevent accidental or nefarious connections that could compromise your security.
- Mindfulness. Be aware of your surroundings and of your devices. Forgetting a device might be an acceptable slip up for most, but for a digital nomad it can bring your lifestyle to a grinding halt.
- Be prepared. Secure your devices behind a trusted VPN before beginning any remote adventures. This will encrypt all of your web traffic, regardless of where you connect.
- Stop the spread. In case of a device or account breach, strong passwords and multi-factor authentication will help minimize the damage.
A staggering 4.8 million Americans describe themselves as digital nomads, a number that won’t be going down anytime soon. With remote work becoming the new norm, it’s more important than ever that we take these cybersecurity measures seriously—to protect not just ourselves, but also our businesses and clients. Are you a digital nomad making your way through the remote-work landscape? Let us know your top tips in the comments below!