What Do Laptop Bans on Airplanes Mean for Data Security?

What Do Laptop Bans on Airplanes Mean for Data Security?

In March, many international business travelers were taken by surprise when the US and UK abruptly issued bans on carry-on laptops and other large electronic devices on inbound flights from a number of airports in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey, citing intelligence that terrorists may attempt to target US-bound airplanes on these routes by “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.” As long as the bans are in place, such items cannot be carried onto these flights and must be checked instead. On Thursday, Politico reported that US airlines were bracing for the Department of Homeland Security to expand the ban to flights from Europe and other parts of the world, though any such expansion is not expected to be implemented until President Donald Trump returns from an overseas trip this weekend.

An expanded ban would have obvious consequences for business travelers, who would no longer be able to get any work done on these long-haul international flights, but global security consultant Luke Bencie warns at the Harvard Business Review that organizations whose employees travel across the oceans on business have another reason to be concerned—namely, that checking a laptop at an airport could put the device, and any sensitive data it may contain, at risk:

In today’s globalized business environment, the craft of spying has never been more lucrative. For intelligence collectors, the idea of forcing travelers to become separated from their large electronics is like winning the lottery.

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