When in China, don't leave your laptop alone

If you travel to China or Russia, assume government or industry spooks will steal your data and install spyware. Here's how to thwart them.

By Bob Violino, InfoWorld |  Security

You're traveling in China on business, and after checking into your hotel room you decide to grab a bite at a local restaurant. You're not planning to work, so you leave your laptop on the dresser, lock the door, and exit, feeling confident that your possessions are safe.

An hour and half later you return and note that all your stuff, including the laptop, is just where you left it. Everything seems fine, and you go about your business, conducting meetings with potential clients over the next few days before returning home.

But everything is not fine. While you were out to dinner that first night, someone entered your room (often a nominal hotel staffer), carefully examined the contents of your laptop, and installed spyware on the computer -- without your having a clue.

[ Bob Violono reveals how cyber spies try to harpoon your execs' PCs to steal your data. | Prevent corporate data leaks with Roger Grimes' "Data Loss Prevention Deep Dive" PDF expert guide, only from InfoWorld. ]

The result? Exposure of information, including customer data, product development documentation, countless emails, and other proprietary information of value to competitors and foreign governments. Perhaps even, thanks to the spyware, there's an ongoing infection in your corporate network that continually phones home key secrets for months or years afterward.

Because so many users never detect that they've been compromised and few report the issue publicly, it's not clear how common this sort of spying is, but it does happen, say cyber security experts. In fact, you should simply assume your computer will be breached if you go to high-risk countries such as China to conduct business, says Israel Martinez, a private-sector board member at the U.S. National Cyber Security Council, a defense industry group.

Cyber attacks overseas can happen in a variety of ways. In May 2012, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, issued an intelligence note saying recent analysis from government agencies shows that "malicious actors" were going after travelers abroad. There were recent instances of travelers' laptops being infected with malicious software while they were using hotel Internet connections, the report noted.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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