by Bob Violino 4 December 2012
You’re traveling in China on business, and after checking into your hotel room you decide to grab a bite at a local restaurant. You’re not planning to work, so you leave your laptop on the dresser, lock the door, and exit, feeling confident that your possessions are safe.
An hour and half later you return and note that all your stuff, including the laptop, is just where you left it. Everything seems fine, and you go about your business, conducting meetings with potential clients over the next few days before returning home.
But everything is not fine. While you were out to dinner that first night, someone entered your room (often a nominal hotel staffer), carefully examined the contents of your laptop, and installed spyware on the computer — without your having a clue.
The result? Exposure of information, including customer data, product development documentation, countless emails, and other proprietary information of value to competitors and foreign governments.
Because so many users never detect that they’ve been compromised and few report the issue publicly, it’s not clear how common this sort of spying is, but it does happen, say cyber security experts. In fact, you should simply assume your computer will be breached if you go to high-risk countries such as China to conduct business, says Israel Martinez, a private-sector board member at the U.S. National Cyber Security Council, a defense industry group.