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Tech-Savvy Ways Business Travellers Can Stay Safe In Emergencies

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Global business travel has grown dramatically at the same time technology has advanced in the last decade.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts U.S. business travel will rise in 2016 by 2.1 percent to 508.6 million trips along with spending increasing 1.9 percent to to $295.7 billion.

Corporate security and travel professionals are expected to continuously learn, adapt to new technologies and find best practices that safeguard the security and privacy of employee travellers.

The following four best practices can will help a company protect their travelling personnel from security and privacy breaches.

Companies can follow five best practices to effectively keep monitor, assist and protect personnel and their data while travelling.

1. Train Employees to be Tech Savvy

The best line of defence for a company is a tech-savvy and security conscious employee. Educating employees on how to use communications apps like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and other custom apps is essential.

On April 8, 2008, UC Berkeley graduate student, James Karl Buck and his translator were arrested by local police while taking photos of a noisy demonstration in Mahalla El-Kobra, Egypt. On his way to the police station, Buck, who had been using Twitter for one week, sent a message on the micro-blogging platform. His message had one one word: "Arrested."

Buck's Twitter followers were mostly friends and called UC Berkeley, the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and the media. Buck continued to send updates every few hours that he was being detained. Bloggers at UC-Berkeley wrote regular updates and continued to spread the word.

Buck, in an interview with TechNewsWorld explained his reasons for using Twitter:
"The most important thing on my mind was to let someone know where we were so that there would be some record of it ... so we couldn't [disappear]. As long as someone knew where we were, I felt like they couldn't do their worst [to us] because someone, at some point, would be checking in on them."

Rob Gunnison, director of school affairs at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism contacted the university's risk management office. They contacted the university president, which then contacted the university's insurance carrier. The insurance firm had relationships with attorneys around the world. They contacted a lawyer and interpreter in Egypt. Within 24 hours, a security firm escorted Buck to the airport to board a plane to the US.

2. Track travelling employees and assist in times of need

Advances in technology allow companies to accurately track travelling employees' locations with management tools, smartphone apps and GPS-enabled tracking beacons. In a travel emergency, security and travel professionals need to be able to quickly locate and assist an employee. Responses must be appropriate to incident, whether a natural disaster, a terrorist event or smaller events like an auto accident or an injury.

Travelling employees in an emergency or crisis need be able to receive help from a security or travel professional immediately, with an effective travel risk management program in place. For instance, an employee must be setup to receive current country briefs, real-time alerts and be registered on communications platforms that have been tested before departure.

3. Disable third-party tracking apps

Employees need guidance from security and travel personnel about which GPS tracking apps to enable and disable.

Today, the ability to track a person's location can be found in everything from handheld and mobile devices to automobiles to laptops and to household gadgets.

Travellers renting newer cars, often use Bluetooth features like voice activated commands for GPS about directions, where to eat and hands-free calls. While these features are convenience, there are privacy and security concerns.

For example, when a traveller connects and syncs to a rental car's Bluetooth, the car is able to store phone numbers and call logs. The consequence is that the call history and logs are available to the next customer using the vehicle. The options to increase a traveller's privacy is to disable bluetooth or delete all their user data and user history after using the Bluetooth syncing feature. Most travellers either don't know how to perform these tasks or are in a rush after returning the rental car. Take a few extra minutes and ask staff for assistance to delete your history.

4. Take precautions using public WiFi

Most airports, cafes, restaurants and bars offer free public WiFi, which has many risks for travellers. Hackers know travellers are more careless with exposing phones and tablets, compared to laptops.

According to Marian Merritt, Internet safety advocate at Norton by Symantec, there are two main risks when using free Wifi. The first is when someone monitors your online activity via the network while you are logged in and the second is to trick you into using a free fake public Wifi signal that mimics a legitimate establishment. The hacker may be able to view your passwords, emails, social networks, bank accounts and documents. To keep your data safe, it is recommended you follow one or more of these tips.

  • Turn WiFi off when not using it
  • Ask an employee for the legitimate WiFi network
  • Avoid websites that require you to enter user and password information on public WiFi
  • Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). By purchasing VPN software, you can your own private network on a phone, tablet and computer.
  • Use SSL Connections to encrypt transmitted data. You can do this by enabling the "Always use HTTPS" option on websites that require a username and password
  • Use online security software, which offers anti-phishing technology, Wi-Fi security alerts, webcam protection, secure shopping and banking and malware detection.

Uncertainty is the norm today, due to geopolitical events and natural disasters. Security and privacy concerns of business travellers will remain a top priority for companies. For companies to be ahead of the curve, a well informed employee on best practices to maximize security and privacy is their best defence.

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