When you’re traveling, you want to relax. You want to see the sights, experience life as a local and imagine what your life would be like if you were fortunate enough to live there. You already know you need to be vigilant about the drinking water and eating that dodgy curry. The last thing you want to think about are issues of your personal security like hacking or having your personal or business information stolen. But the reality is you do have to keep this in mind.

Not too long ago, when packing for a trip, you needed to be sure to remember your toothbrush and warm jacket. Now we all take our smartphones, smart watches, internet-enabled cameras and laptops on holiday with us. Especially when traveling for business. The problem is, all that tech makes you a target for criminals. And there’s one thing in particular which is particularly worrying for business travelers: spy mail. This is email which reveals a recipient’s location and behavior when it’s opened. Criminals are able to invade your inbox and steal confidential information.

According to an FBI public service announcement issued in June last year, the “business email compromise” scam continued to grow, evolve and target businesses of all sizes.

“Since January 2015, there has been a 1,300% increase in identified exposed losses. The scam has been reported by victims in all 50 states and in 100 countries. Reports indicate that fraudulent transfers have been sent to 79 countries with the majority going to Asian banks located within China and Hong Kong.”

The FBI define this scam as one which targets businesses which work with foreign suppliers and/or those which regularly perform wire transfer payments.

“The scam is carried out by compromising legitimate business e-mail accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques to conduct unauthorized transfers of funds.”

It goes on to say that most victims use wire transfers or cheques as common payment methods and the fraudsters use the method most often used by the victim.

An article in Harvard Business Review gives this example: “Say, for instance, an executive opens a spy mail while meeting with a supplier in a politically, economically, or socially unstable country. Knowing that the business leader is in a volatile part of the world, malicious third parties can formulate an attack by harnessing the fear and uncertainty that accompanies such travel. The attack may include, for example, spoofed emails from the executive abroad, saying that they are in a dangerous situation (e.g., there has been a terror attack, they have been kidnapped, etc.) and need money. In an extreme case, information gathered through spy mail can be used to plan an actual kidnapping.”

So, how can you improve your personal security and avoid hacking? Here are some tips:

Encourage staffers to become more aware

Employees can’t guard against hacking attacks if they’re not aware of them. Offering engaging training regularly will ensure everyone is up to date with the potential of attacks. This will increase the likelihood that’ll they’ll be vigilant. Ready for some scary statistics? According to PWC and KPMG, only 53% of companies have employee security-awareness and training programs, and only one in two CEOs feel prepared for a cyber attack.

Establish travel safety plans

Employees need to know what they are expected to do in times of emergency. A plan needs to be put in place so that anyone traveling has to adhere to strict regulations should they require money. When a request is made that doesn’t adhere to these regulations, the money won’t be immediately released until the agreed upon process is followed.

Add extra security to the inbox

Adding spy mail protection, in addition to regular spam filters and firewalls, can protect company data and give traveling staffers peace of mind. That way they’ll be able to focus on the sights instead of worrying about the safety of their inbox.

The realities of hacking threats can’t be ignored – particularly while traveling. If you’re interested in recent cyber security threats read our recent article. It details recent massive hacks to large, international companies and even a government.

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