Blog: How Tos

Girl on a train. The snooping girl on a train

Jo Dalton 28 Apr 2017

I’ve just returned from a business meeting and I’m on a train from London Euston. Rather than standing up and preaching the morals of Cyber Security to the people in coach F I wrote this instead.

I am a girl on a train, but I could be anybody. As commuters we are all strangers. Sometimes we chat, but most times we work, make awkward eye contact and simply ignore each other.

The Players

Today I sat on a table with 3 strangers, all of whom exhibited different behaviours, things as an employer I would find cause for concern. I had openly disclosed I worked in Cyber Security whilst chatting yet their behaviour remained the same.

Blonde Lady in Housing. I could provide more personal info as she was wearing her lanyard and security badge in clear visibility. No PIN code on her device

Mystery Man. Sat diagonal to me on the table and although safe from me he was still in danger

Senior Insurance Guy. Sat next to me. The poor chap.

The Snooping Game

Now Senior Insurance Guy was very cautious and protective of how he discussed things on the telephone BUT from my position I could quite happily read the emails relating to this conversation, see every contact as well as review the cricket scores that he kept checking. Despite being careful with his verbal disclosures – this was not the case with his mobile phone – which may I add had NO PIN CODE!! Mental. The firm he worked for was one of the biggest insurers globally. Madness or is it just me?

Let’s move on to Mystery Man. Although I couldn’t see any of mystery man’s devices easily (AGAIN NO PIN CODE) – the housing lady could, and for the entire journey she literally read EVERY SINGLE THING that came into his phone, whether a text or an email – on the pretence of reading her book. I watched her eyes continuously dart to reading his communications. I had to stifle a giggle or two because it was so blatant! What was even more apparent was that Mystery Man was completely oblivious!

Housing Lady. Well what can I say. Although impressed with her desire to read other people’s stuff I was surprised at her lack of caution too. Verbally she disclosed a variety of things I would consider sensitive on a call, had no PIN code on her device and turned into one of the people above trying to shout down the phone… Oh as well as knowing her full name, where she worked and roughly where she lived – eek.

Last, but certainly not least, was the random gentlemen sitting across from me in the aisle, one row ahead. Clearly enjoying the Virgin Beam application, watching “The Killing” – whilst browsing for High Class Escorts – was this a murder in the making!!??

The End of the Line

I know I work in Cyber Security but the frivolous and trusting manner we have as strangers on a train is crazy. The general etiquette of protecting our privacy on public transport has astounded and amused me in many different ways recently. The nature of public transport means that personal space literally goes out the window.

All of you will have been on a train at some point I’m guessing, a time where technology fills our hours and without a decent phone signal, we focus and get some work done. (Unless you’re one of those annoying people that keeps trying to scream down your phone – they still can’t hear you mate, no matter how loud you shout – there’s no signal). The documents we work on are easily readable by any passer-by or the people sat around us… it’s on a white screen and the text is black!! Can you be 100% sure you’re not being snooped on?

Trust No-One

I may be a girl on a train, but I could be anybody… A client of your firm, a competitor, a new investor or even your new colleague/boss.

So reflect back on your journeys.. have you been Housing Lady and snooped on someone else’s device – OF COURSE YOU HAVE.  But if you are doing it – who’s doing it to you?

Just Think

In a nut-shell it’s not difficult; simply be careful with what you work on in public – it may be urgent, but if its sensitive it can wait. TELL the client/colleague/boss that you were being cautious of security… spread the word people!!

If you need to work or access emails/documents on your phone – sit to one side or move into a private space if you’re accessing information that could be sensitive or confidential.

Request IT fit a screen privacy filter for your laptop screen, that way you can only see the screen from straight on, rather than from the side

Ensure your devices have adequate security (Passwords/PINs) and don’t just leave them unattended on tables – it doesn’t matter if the stranger gets offended that you think they are a thief… they could be!!

Please EVERYONE – don’t be so blasé with what you do with your devices and information on the train. If you’re happy to share everything freely just invite me home for dinner and offer a rummage through your client accounts.

I promise I’ll bring beer.