One of the simplest ways that you can protect yourself when you’re on the go is to just limit the amount of data that you carry with you. If your laptop is completely stuffed to the brim with all of your client or project information or if it has every file associated with every open or closed matter that you’ve worked on in the last five years, that’s a tremendously dangerous thing to be carrying around because if you lose it, you’re potentially revealing a huge amount of data.
The simpler method, if you’re going out for a meeting, or event, is to just carry the documents with you that you could reasonably foresee that you’ll need. Consider having a separate laptop that you just use for mobile. Or have an encrypted thumb drive that you keep the files on and just keep the files that you need. Don’t throw your entire client/project folder into your thumb drive. This is also an area where tablets like the iPad can be handy because they don’t typically hold a lot of data. They just access the data online. If you’re just going out for a meeting and you need something to be able to take notes and maybe check your email or pull down a file from a remote server, then something like an iPad might work because it’s going to allow you to do those things without actually lugging around the data on an internal hard drive that could be accessed.
If you do want to use thumb drives on the go, I would really make sure that you’re encrypting them. You can use a free tool like TrueCrypt to do that. Thumb drives are incredibly easy to lose. They can fall out of your pocket. You can get them mixed up with another person’s thumb drive. You can put them into the computer at a client’s site and then free it to grab it when you’re leaving. Any number of things can happen because they’re so small and they’re so portable. So make sure that you’ve got encryption if you’re going to put sensitive data onto a thumb drive.
Also, be really careful about accessing public WiFi networks. Especially free public networks. We’re talking about the networks that you’re going to find in cafes and shops, or just sort of a municipal wireless network. The problem is you don’t necessarily know who else is on that network. Sometimes you don’t know who created or hosts that network. So it’s really dangerous to trust that the information that’s being moved across the network is going to be safe.
There actually have been tools developed that are designed to sort of sniff the traffic that’s moving across the network. One of these tools allowed you to open up a list and see, for example, these three people on the same network were all accessing Facebook or Twitter, or something like that. Then the people using this tool could then masquerade as the third person. So you access Facebook from a Starbucks, somebody else on the network sees that you’re doing that and then they can masquerade as you to access your account just using the information that’s being passed around the network.
Now some wireless networks are more secure than others. Some may be more trustworthy than others, and some of these tools, or the loopholes that allow these tools to function are being closed. But I’d still be really careful about it. If you’re going to need online access outside of the office, consider getting a device that has the feature built in. So pick the iPad with the built in 4G connectivity, or consider investing in a mobile hotspot device. It’s sometimes called a MiFi, which allows you to create your own personal private wireless network wherever you go.