Beijing Olympics? Paranoia will protect your data

Summary:If you're heading to the Beijing Olympics to cut deals, schmooze and booze, don't leave your laptop and mobile with your hosts for a second and watch your gadgets very, very carefully. Of course, it might cost you a deal because you're acting weird, but your data will be safe.

If you're heading to the Beijing Olympics to cut deals, schmooze and booze, don't leave your laptop and mobile with your hosts for a second and watch your gadgets very, very carefully. Of course, it might cost you a deal because you're acting weird, but your data will be safe.

Is China more of a threat to your data than any other country? If you listen to some sections of the media, from backyard hackers to the People's Liberation Army, the Chinese are all after your secrets and the Beijing Olympics will present the perfect opportunity to get at your information, either by giving you a booby-trapped USB or distracting you for a second while they extract information from your laptop.

This week, the director of the SANS Internet Storm Center Marcus Sachs played up to these fears on his blog by asking how anyone heading to the Beijing Olympics will protect their data and devices.

Based on some of the responses published, the only "communication" devices you should take with you to Beijing are a pen, pad and perhaps prophylactics (if the last APEC meeting in Sydney is anything to go by, these meet and greets are a chance to exchange more than just ideas).

PDAs, laptops, mobile phones and BlackBerrys — leave them at home, even if your life doesn't quite seem the same without them. And if you are foolhardy enough to bring them, make sure you scan and scrub any USB, or CD given to you — there's every chance that you'll get more than you bargained for seems to be the advice.

One respondent to Sachs' blog says: "China has made it very clear that 'no holds barred' is fair game and they WILL take it to their full advantage."

"Returning expats," says the respondent, "should have an in-briefing meeting and sign a statement indicating ... have not brought back any non-company media to the best of their knowledge. At that time, they are given a one-time opportunity for amnesty to provide anything they may have forgotten to leave behind."

Here's my take on it: if this trip to Beijing is the first time you've been cautious about your data, you need your head — and systems — thoroughly checked. And if you're truly concerned about those "no holds barred" Chinese, I'll tell you a secret: the Chinese are already outside of China. And if they're really desperate to get their hands on your data, they'll know that a better place to get at your data is on your home turf — where you're not so paranoid.

And one more thing. Forget Beijing when it comes to USBs. Do not trust anyone that gives you a USB. Even Telstra, Australia's largest telco, recently issued delegates at this year's AusCERT conference, 80 malware-infected USBs.

Topics: Security, China

About

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, s... Full Bio

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