How government workers can avoid cyber threats on vacation

Government websites and facilities are generally a prime target for cyberattacks because of the high-value information often contained within them. With more than business structures on the line, government IT workers need to do everything they can to develop stalwart cybersecurity so the personal data of employees as well as sensitive material is kept away from hackers with malicious intent.

The risks aren't restricted to nameless cybercriminals with nothing but a laptop, either. Some threats are thought to be sponsored by foreign states searching for any advantage they can get by stealing troves of data, such as the recent suspected cyber attack on USIS that potentially compromised personnel material for the Department of Homeland Security, reported WIBW.

Government workers that go on vacation are no less vulnerable.

Threats that follow wherever you go
While it might be tempting for federal employees to kick back and relax while on a vacation, doing so could be costly if they aren't cautious. Government staff need to be extra careful even before they head to their destination so they don't reveal any information that might give vigilant hackers an edge. If not, then not only could all information relating to specific employees be in danger, but the organizations they work for as well.

Here are some extra precautions federal employees can take when going on vacation, according to InformationWeek: 

  • Avoid giving advance notice – Workers who post their plans on social media well in advance give insight to hackers that may be following their actions. If the systems that they normally use are still accessible, it can be attacked by threats when left unsupervised. Even if the valuable hardware is located in employees' homes, thieves that know no one will be there could break in without any worry of being interrupted.
  • Keep quiet when planning a vacation – If federal staff are planning their trip while at work, they need to be careful of the websites they visit to book flights and hotels. Any site that isn't well-known may be infected with malware or other malevolent software that can infiltrate the terminal that viewed it. This could inadvertently damage the security and performance of the the government infrastructure it's connected to.
  • Be careful about what is clicked – While it may be tempting to try and save as much as possible on an upcoming vacation, federal officials should be we wary about any messages with attachments promising coupons or discounts. Some emails may be part of a phishing scam looking to get government passwords and user IDs. Rather than accepting whatever offer comes their way, federal employees should go straight to the travel agency's website offering the promotion to be safe.
  • Beware of public WiFi – Many locations at popular tourist destinations now offer free, public WiFi, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's secure enough to connect devices that may contain government data. It's known that hackers sometimes camp out these areas to intercept wireless traffic, guiding it to their own computers where they can steal all kinds of valuable information.
  • The dangers of going abroad – Federal staff members traveling internationally aren't as familiar with the layout of the digital landscape as they are back at home. Hackers can take advantage of this by delivering targeted advertisements directed at tourists for transportation or attractions because they aren't as accustomed to their warning signs. These could be a gateway for viruses that might be devastating if the device being used has remote access capabilities to the government building back in the United States.