Traveling for work as an IT professional has some unique challenges. Spending eight hours at a computer is normal for us. So, we set up comfortable, ergonomic working spaces, but this is hard when you’re in a different hotel every other night. Then there are the security concerns. Our laptops can access sensitive company data we need to protect and back up.
If you find yourself in this situation, I have some tips!
- Basic Security as a Traveling IT Professional
- Ergonomic Hotel Working Space
- Protecting the Notoriously Unsecure Hotel Wi-Fi
- Hotel Room Security
Basic Security as a Traveling IT Professional
There are essential traveling precautions IT professionals need to take to secure their data; due diligence, if you will. These are…
Full disk encryption is vital to securing data if your laptop is stolen. The thief will not be able to access the data on the laptop. Full disk encryption should be mandatory under company policy if you are on a company-owned device.
Set the Laptop BIOS Password
Depending on your device, the BIOS password will protect the device from unauthorized users booting your device from another disk or USB, changing your BIOS settings, or accessing your hard drive.
Hardware MFA for Laptop Login
I cannot recommend enough using a hardware security key. My preferred hardware key is YubiKeys, which supports multiple MFA methods. Yubikeys can add localized MFA support to laptops, ensuring brute-force attacks cannot breach data on stolen laptops.
Real-talk: All non-hardware-based MFA is not true MFA. OTP with a phone, plus a username and password, are all “something you know“, with extra steps. Feel free to argue with me in the comments about it!
Use a Faraday Bag!
Cloning an RFID or NFC keycard is very easy nowadays. On a recent long trip, nearly 70% of my hotel room keys had no basic protections. These were nice, high-end hotels, too. A Faraday bag or NFC/RFID blocker is cheap and will help guard your hotel room, company ID, and credit cards.
Ergonomic Hotel Working Space
The worst part of working out of a hotel room is not having a comfortable workspace. Non-ergonomic working areas reduce productivity and, in my case, lead to headaches. So, I bring a few things to help prevent these issues.
You want to get the monitor just a little below eye level. To do this, you must find a laptop stand that will match your eye level but is also light and easy to pack.
Traveling Mechanical Keyboard
A fixed keyboard on a laptop is not great for long-term use; plus, a laptop stand will make the keyboard unusable. So, I recommend getting a wireless mechanical keyboard. Admittedly, I am a keyboard snob, so you may find a non-mechanical keyboard just fine. Just know that I am judging you. =P
My preferred traveling mechanical keyboard is the NuPhy Air60 with Gateron Brown switches. The Air60 is thin, light, easy to pack, and has many features, like macros.
Extend Your Monitor
Every hotel room will have a TV with an HDMI port, so put it to use. Use that TV as an additional computer monitor with a Wireless HDMI Transmitter and Receiver. Wireless HDMI will let you extend your monitor and speakers to the hotel TV, giving you a massive monitor for video meetings or spreadsheets. Plus, you will have better options for watching entertainment… for after work…(wink wink).
Protecting the Notoriously Unsecure Hotel Wi-Fi
Hotel Wi-Fi is insecure. All your network traffic can be seen if the Wi-Fi is open or if the attacker knows the shared Wi-Fi password. This opens you up to all sorts of man-in-the-middle attacks.
To protect ourselves, we added a travel router. A travel router makes changing hotels or locations every day so much easier. All your devices will use the travel router for Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to reconfigure Wi-Fi on all your devices every time you move. You only need to connect the travel router to the new Wi-Fi once.
In addition to the added convenience, the travel router can automatically build a VPN tunnel to encrypt all traffic from the travel router. You will have a private Wi-Fi network; any traffic leaving your secure network will be encrypted to your VPN server. An Attacker can sniff this traffic all day and never get anything useful.
The hands-down best travel router is the GL.iNet GL-AXT1800 Router. This small and powerful router is handy in all sorts of situations; a Swiss Army Knife of wireless networking.
GL.iNet routers were made for the express use of connecting to hotel Wi-Fi. So, their software has many features to make the connection process easier and circumvent the hotel’s countermeasures to block this setup. This router has a ton of use cases and other features, more than I can list here.
Add the ZTE MF833V 4G LTE USB Modem Dongle to ensure you have an Internet connection. You can plug the USB 4G modem into the GL.iNet router and provide Internet to all your devices. The GL.iNet router can use the 4G connection as a primary or failover Internet connection. This modem acts like an Android phone, bypassing carrier tethering and hotspot restrictions. My AT&T plan will not allow me to use tethering or mobile hotspot abilities, but I had no problems getting this device to bypass the restrictions since the carrier sees it as an Android phone.
Finally, grab a Hard Case for the GL.iNet GL-AXT1800 to carry the router and modem in.
Hotel Room Security
The original reason for finding a travel router was to have a Ring Camera in my hotel room when I was away. I looked at many security cameras, but I always ran into the issue of the hotel Wi-Fi. The hotel Wi-Fi will have a landing page; no IP/Wi-Fi camera can get around this simple web login. So this led me to bring my wireless router.
Paired with a GL.iNet router, the Ring camera will send me alerts when someone is in my room, and I can watch the camera in real-time. The extra security layer really helps my peace of mind when I have to leave my laptop in my room.
Wrap-Up: The Traveling IT Worker
Navigating work from a hotel room during travels can present its own set of challenges. Yet, armed with the right essentials and thoughtful preparation, you can elevate your experience and maintain peak productivity. In the comments section below, share your invaluable tips for fellow globetrotting IT professionals or office workers!