Corporate and government espionage isn't just for the movies. It's very real and it is growing, but there's a James Bond-like solution you can make use of to stem the tide.
When your employees travel overseas with company laptops -- and company secrets -- they are particularly vulnerable to having their laptops broken into. Data gets stolen and spyware is installed so additional information can be lifted once that laptop goes back home and connects to the company network. Security tactics like hard disk encryption go a long way, but it's often not enough. That's why many business travelers are now getting into the habit of buying cheap, throwaway laptops for the sole purpose of international travel.
As businesses expand their business internationally, it should come as no surprise that there will be competitors and even governments that would love to get access to company secrets. While it's possible to remotely hack into networks from abroad, many are finding that it's easier to target individuals (and their laptops) as they travel overseas.
Known as "bag-ops," thieves will attempt to get access to your company laptop while it's in a hotel room, stored away on busses/trains/planes, or just about anywhere else you leave it unattended for a period of time. Once in their possession, the thieves use any number of techniques to access the operating system and locally stored files. And even if you happen to have hard disk encryption, there are methods and ways around even this, including the "evil maid" attack, or installing a hardware-based keylogger to retrieve the encryption passwords.
And once a laptop is successfully broken into, the next step for most hackers is to install backdoor software. This software can later be remotely activated when you are back within your corporate network. This gives the hackers an easy backdoor to retrieve all kinds of new data. Sure, your internal security systems may catch and quarantine the infected laptop in time -- but then again, they might not.
There are some organizations out there that simply can't and won't take any chances with corporate espionage. Throwaway loaner laptops for international travelers limit exposure. The laptops are generally cheap units with decent security and the absolute minimum of information on them. The traveler uses the laptop for the duration of the trip and then returns it to the IT department on their return -- never to touch the corporate network.
This eliminates any chance that malicious software or hardware gets brought back into your network and ensures that secrets are kept safe. When you're traveling internationally on business trips, you should always just assume that your hardware and software has been compromised. It may seem like overkill, but better safe than sorry.