Vacations are all about relaxing and forgetting daily responsibilities, but letting your cyber guard down completely could result in consequences far worse than a ruined holiday. When you’re at home or in an office, you often benefit from having a robust internal network as an extra layer of protection. However, the very nature of travel lends itself to using devices like mobile phones and laptops in unfamiliar places, potentially exposing your data and personal information to malicious actors. Fortunately, some simple steps can dramatically reduce the risks posed by cyber criminals.
Tip 1: Create Strong Passwords, Enable Multifactor Authentication and Update Your Software
Before travelling, be sure to strengthen your cybersecurity arsenal with robust Passwords. Regardless of whether your device is physically stolen or a hacker tries to access your personal data from afar, having strong passwords will make a big difference. They should be at least 12 characters long and contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Where possible, enable multifactor authentication. Found in the security and policy settings of popular email and social media accounts, this two-step verification method will protect your devices even if cyber criminals know your password.
In addition to passwords, make sure all your devices are up to date with the latest software, especially anti-malware and anti-virus protection. Many people incorrectly assume that updates are simply routine improvements. Actually, system updates often address software vulnerabilities within a particular program or product by installing patches.
Tip 2: Be Mindful of Public Wi-Fi Threats and use a VPN where possible
We often resort to public Wi-Fi networks when travelling but always keep in mind that you probably won’t enjoy the same level of protection that you are used to with private networks. One of the most common dangers is “evil twins”, fake public Wi-Fi networks with very similar names to the legitimate network connection. Connecting to these could result in your online activity being monitored by cyber criminals or allow viruses to plague your device. To avoid this pitfall, verify the correct Wi-Fi network with a nearby employee, preferably in written format.
Given the increased risk of public Wi-Fi networks, refrain from performing tasks that involve sensitive information such as financial data. If you need to access this information while travelling, use a virtual private network. A VPN acts as a private server that will encrypt your data and scramble sensitive information like passwords. Protecting you from man-in-the-middle attacks, VPNs also provide additional cybersecurity by funneling your data through a server with a different IP address, disguising your location.
Tip 3: Stop Auto-Connecting and Location Sharing
Smartphones have become great devices for finding directions, storing photos, and sharing music, among many other functions. However, this also means that our smartphones automatically connect to many programs that are widely accessible, particularly to those within close proximity.
With that in mind, when travelling, remember to instruct all your apps and operating systems to stop auto-connecting and select “forget network” for any external networks that you’re connected to while you are traveling. For instance, many travelers connect their smartphones to rental cars using Bluetooth. This means that your information is stored on the vehicle’s system. So, be sure to delete any stored data and remove your appliance from the rental car’s paired device list.
Likewise, disable location services. Your location could help malicious actors track your movements and, over time, reveal patterns that could be exploited by impersonating services that you frequently use. In particular, travelers forget that apps can reveal their location. For example, you may want to download an app for a specific museum or tourist attraction, but pay close attention to what information you are sharing.
Tip 4: Use Public Computers with Caution
Similar to public Wi-Fi networks, public computers are accessed by a wide range of individuals, increasing the potential cyber risk. Many internet cafes don’t invest in adequate cybersecurity measures, meaning that you may not enjoy the same level of protection that you’re used to. This precarious combination means that you should avoid looking at any sensitive financial information and be especially cautious when accessing your emails and social media accounts.
Cyber criminals could have installed malicious software on the computer. Keyloggers, for instance, are well-known malware programs that capture the keystrokes of computer users and send that information to the hacker’s email. Basic keyloggers can be beaten by simply using an on-screen keyboard, removing the keystroke element from the equation.
However, more sophisticated programs can also record on-screen movements, reinforcing the importance of establishing multifactor authentication for your emails and online accounts. After using a public computer, remember to log out from any personal accounts and delete both your cookies and browser history.
For more information about cyber scams and other digital threats to keep your eye on, check out the Tech section of our blog.
4 Cybersecurity Tips to Keep Your Data Safe when Travelling
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