How Secure Are Your Board Directors' Devices?

Nicholas J Price
As a convenience for weary travelers and businesspeople, airports around the country have installed electronic charging stations. If you're like most people, when the battery on your phone is dying, you're happy to learn that there's a charging station in the airport and there's a free spot for you to use. If you're plugging into a charger much like the one you have at home, you think, what is there to worry about? In reality, you should be worried about plenty.

Travelers Beware of Cybercriminals

Reports from the 2019 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index show that a blossoming number of nation-state hackers are focusing their cybercriminal activity on recreational and business travelers. The report shows that hackers are making the transportation industry the second most attacked industry. It's a sharp jump considering the transportation industry ranked 10th in 2017. The hackers have been surprisingly successful in their efforts. They've managed to leak or compromise over 566 million records from the travel and transportation industry since 2018.

Cybercriminals will lie in wait for an unsuspecting traveler to plug their phone into a USB port at a public transportation terminal. The fact is that USB ports can pass data through them and essentially infect your device, along with every other device that plugged into the port before you. At a busy airport where people are coming and going all day long, that's a lot of risk. One way that this works is that a cybercriminal purposely leaves a phone charger behind. You come along and, rather than pull out your own charger, you just use the one that's there. What you have no way of knowing is that there's an extra chip inside the cord that deploys malware.

Online magazine CSO warns readers not to trust any public Wi-Fi networks. WPA2 is the encryption standard that makes all modern Wi-Fi networks secure. However, a flaw was discovered in WPA2 that makes it possible for anyone nearby to access all your information when you're using a public Wi-Fi network. While you think that you're talking with the Wi-Fi hotspot, a hacker is happily receiving your information on the other end. Be aware that the hacker is also receiving every bit of information that you send out ' your spouse's email address, your children's cell phone numbers, your business credit card information, your business data and lots more.

What You Can Do to Reduce the Risk of Viruses and Malware in Public Spaces

You don't have to put your electronic devices or your personal information at risk. There are some simple things that you can do to protect yourself from unscrupulous activity.

Don't use a charging cord that someone else left behind. It's best to bring your personal charger along with you and plug it into a standard electrical outlet. Bring a portable power bank to recharge your phone. There's also a device that you can buy called a Juice-Jack Defender that blocks data, but lets the voltage run through it. Just plug the Juice-Jack Defender into an outlet and plug your phone into the Juice-Jack.

Don't punch in or pull up any of your personally identifiable information (PII). Your PII is golden and you need to treat it that way when you're in any public space. Unless you're on your own Wi-Fi service, don't log into your bank account; don't enter social security numbers into any programs, texts or emails; and don't give out your home address or phone number. When you signed up for certain accounts, they may have asked for your phone number, so without knowing it, you may have compromised your information in that way.

A VPN is a virtual private network that allows you to connect securely to another network over the internet. VPNs cost money, but they provide peace of mind because they shield information from public Wi-Fi. You can set your devices so that they only pull up SSL connections. You can add a layer of encryption by always using HTTPS on websites you visit.

A really simple way to protect your data is by getting an unlimited data plan. It's tempting to hop on any free public Wi-Fi you can access so that you don't use up your data and must pay for extra. Android mobile devices were the most susceptible to the WPA2 flaw. An unlimited data plan will take away any worries about accessing insecure Wi-Fi networks and will let you use your mobile device as a personal 'hotspot.' This also means that you wouldn't need a VPN connection either.

Another way to protect your information is by turning the sharing feature off on your phone using the preferences icon or the control panel. When you connect to a new, unsecured network, choose the 'public' option when Windows comes up.

Those are all great tips for most travelers and businesspeople to create an online experience that won't compromise the integrity of their information. Board directors deal with much more confidential and sensitive information than most other people. The best tool for board directors to perform board functions is to use a highly secure board management software system that was designed by an industry leader in Modern Governance. Modern Governance Requires a Board Management Software Platform Diligent designed a secure platform for board communication and collaboration. The software designers really listened to their board member customers and learned about other needs that boards have. Diligent Corporation put together an entire suite of board management governance software solutions and made sure that they all fully integrate with each other and that there is no risk of one product spreading a virus to another. Everything with Diligent products resides in the cloud and is available online and offline, so companies don't even need VPN.

A specific way that boards can protect themselves is by using the user permission feature to ensure that only the right people get the right information and the rest remains confidential. If sensitive information somehow got taken, encryption adds a layer of protection. Diligent is aware that encryption needs to follow industry best practices and evolve to ensure that digital board tools have the strictest security measures possible.
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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.