How Secure is Your Events and Exhibits Data?
What if you collected the best post-show surveys or gathered the best registration data and suddenly it was all gone — stolen over the internet by sophisticated hackers. A Halloween scenario? Not if we are familiar with and employ comprehensive cybersecurity practices.
For the past 15 years, the Department of Homeland Security has designated October as National Cybersecurity Month. They have released the 2018 edition of their toolkit for raising awareness for the importance of cybersecurity.
Along with cautions and directives to keep information and infrastructure safe, an event planner has two other levels of concern. The data collection success of the event and the safety of attendees’ personal data.
Among the safeguards recommended in the Toolkit, these stood out as both valuable and practical.
- Use the expertise of your company’s IT professionals. They have the knowledge, know-how, and access to stay current on security threats and that data protection that work best when you are hosting an event or exhibiting at a trade show.
- Have IT teach cyber safety to your entire events team. You should not be the only team member aware of security issues. It is a group effort.
- Sign up for alerts and get tips on how to safeguard your computers from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).
- Report all suspicious or unusual problems with your computer to your IT department.
We’ve taken a few of the cautions from the toolkit and given them a spin for event planners.
Their words: Keep a clean machine.
Our spin. Demand proof from your suppliers that laptops and servers have been data wiped and scanned for malware.
Their words: Avoid oversharing online.
Our spin. When attendees are asked for survey or profile information, keep it to the bare minimum. Be sure attendees agree to share their information. And make it clear they can ask that their information be deleted at any time.
Their words: Protect your password.
Our spin. Use tiered authentication that requires individuals to enter not one but two passwords. Don’t leave laptops unattended. Require a password when the computer goes to sleep or when the screen saver launches.
Do not leave laptops unattended.
Their words: Stay protected while connected.
Our spin. It does go without saying, but worth saying anyway — do not use free wifi for any event activity. Under the best scenario, hire your own IT service to manage and monitor your data and devices.
Otherwise, if using hotel services, closely review security protocols that are in place before signing a contract. Be sure any servers are equipped with a password-protected firewall.
Regularly offload collected data to a peripheral device or the cloud and encrypt sensitive information at the close of each event day.
Change the passwords for your devices every day.
Summary of best practices
- Use a firewall
- Offload data regularly from any device used on site
- Use strong passwords
- Use multifactor authentication
- Be sure malware and virus software is installed and up to date
- Keep system and application software up to date
- Do not use free wifi
Along with all the other risk management strategies for safe events, cybersecurity is growing in importance. These cybersafety practices go hand in hand with overall event safety. Something every event planner needs to make part of event planning.