COVID-conscious travel: No-tou

The pandemic is changing the way people approach travelling by air. Image: Adobe Stock

COVID-conscious travel: No-touch tech requires greater data security

Touchless technology is becoming a key feature of travel in the pandemic era. Here’s how you can achieve better data security en route.

COVID-conscious travel: No-tou

The pandemic is changing the way people approach travelling by air. Image: Adobe Stock

Fears around data security have grown amid the shift towards no-touch travel, especially when it comes to business travel. New technology has emerged that could offer some solutions to an industry that is furiously trying to navigate the many challenges of operating during a global pandemic. 

In the digital age, data may be one of the most valuable things any of us own. Oz Desai, general manager of travel management company Corporate Traveller, weighs in on how jitters around data security can be approached in the context of business travel.

New technologies increasingly in use

Technological innovations such as biometrics, facial recognition and smart products all made air travel and border crossings safer and more efficient, while speeding up the return to ‘normal’ travel during the pandemic. 

By 2023, the US department of homeland security expects to be using facial recognition on 97% of travellers. In countries like Belize, travellers must download contact-tracing apps, and in Hong Kong and Grenada they must wear a GPS tracker during the pandemic.

These trends, which are set to rapidly become global norms, can feel invasive to privacy-conscious travellers. Amnesty International also drew attention to the dangers of these new technologies when it called out Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway in 2020 for overly invasive apps, and Qatar for a security flaw that made personal information vulnerable to hackers.

Risks of facial recognition tech ‘relatively limited’

However, while facial recognition during your travels might feel invasive, the risks were relatively limited, Desai said.

Traveller data is mostly used to model and predict travel demand, timing and pricing tolerance. According to data security specialists quoted in National Geographic, if you have no issues with posting selfies on social media, your anxiety over travel innovations might just be misplaced. 

When it comes to data security, the more pertinent risk for traveller data existed well before the widespread adoption of touchless technology and facial recognition. In fact, in 2018, IBM Security reported that business travellers were some of the most at-risk victims of cyber attacks, but didn’t seem to realise it. 

Beware cyber attacks and identity theft

Travellers are easily distracted, especially at airports. Image: Adobe Stock

Travellers are often in unfamiliar places, easily distracted and more likely to be victims of cyber attacks. They can be at risk of someone hacking into their bank accounts, credit cards and or even stealing their identity when they use public Wi-Fi at airports or coffee shops. 

Travellers need to be aware that cyber criminals create pop-up networks and websites with a professional appearance to steal usernames, passwords and contacts from unsuspecting users. Travellers who are distracted in an airport environment are more likely to fall prey to such data security breaches than people working from the peace and quiet of an office.  

Five ways to achieve better data security

Here are a few tips to make sure your data stays safe: 

  1. Use trusted apps from providers you are familiar with. 
  2. Choose your Wi-Fi with care: Business travellers should try to avoid public networks, if possible, or consider using a VPN.
  3. Bring a power bank. USB power charging stations allow cybercriminals to download data or instal malware. 
  4. Make sure your devices are locked behind a password, or better still, biometric security. 
  5. Update your antivirus software before travelling and install a firewall. 

Make sure your data security is considered

These tips will go a long way towards ensuring greater data security while you are travelling.

However, it is also advisable to have a reliable travel management company or TMC that is dedicated to helping you protect your data as part of a duty-of-care plan. 

ALSO READ: Travel survey: How COVID is changing the way South Africans travel