Intelligence: Hang On Travelers


November 14,2008: Holland's intelligence services are issuing a special "how to avoid spies" pamphlet for government officials, politicians and business leaders who travel outside the country. The pamphlet, titled (in English) "Spying risks when travelling abroad" gives some of the same advice corporations are providing to their key people. Things like don't discuss sensitive material in a public place, especially an airplane or train. Be careful with people who strike up a conversation with you. Skilled spies can "interrogate" you without your realizing it. There are also warnings about carrying around classified documents when you don't have to. That's old news that needs repeating.

Another big problem is sensitive date stored on cell phones, thumb drives (USB devices with flash memory) and laptops. In many organizations, users are allowed to put whatever they want on their cell phones and laptops. Otherwise, when these items get stolen (sometimes on purpose), there is much grief and recrimination. Nearly half of senior government and corporate officials now use "smart phones," (like the iPhone), which are basically cell phones with laptop computer capabilities. In other words, you can store lots of data on a smart phone, and these devices are easy to misplace, or be stolen. While encryption is available on thumb drives and lap tops, it is slower to come to smart phones. It's available, it's just more difficult to implement, and get users to cooperate.

The pamphlet will serve as a good list of things many people will continue to do. Getting users of sensitive information to change their data security habits has never been easy, and never will be.


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