The holiday season is upon us and with it, the hustle and bustle of peak travel season. Before you step foot out the door to celebrate seasonal festivities, take a moment to secure your digital devices and keep your personal data out of cybercriminal hands. After all, you’re more vulnerable to cyber risks when traveling, especially in today’s digitally connected world. Here are eight tips to keep you cyber-safe while you’re away from home.
- Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
While it may be tempting to connect to public Wi-Fi at your favorite eatery, hotel or airport, doing so opens the door for hackers to access personal info on your device while you’re using a shared network. In this vulnerable situation, a hacker, acting as a man in the middle, can gain access to all information from your internet activity such as online payment info, emails, login credentials and photos. It also provides an avenue for threat actors to distribute malware on your computer. Once a hacker has your personal info, they can act on your behalf and log in to your personal accounts. To remedy this security concern, turn your Wi-Fi off when not in use and disable your device from auto-connecting to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This provides an additional layer of security, plus it extends the battery life on your device. If you absolutely must use public Wi-Fi, don’t access personal messages or browse sites that require a login. Disconnect quickly when you finish your session.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Turn to a VPN to maintain a secure connection while you’re on the go and away from your home or office network. A VPN will encrypt your website traffic, so hackers can’t see the sites you’re browsing—making you a harder target for hackers who are looking for an easy victim.
- Protect Digital Devices
Activate “find my phone” feature before you leave. Turning on this feature will allow you to find or access your device remotely if it gets lost or stolen. Take care to always keep your device with you when you’re in a shared space.
- Lock Your Devices and Turn Off Location Services
Keep your device locked at all times using a unique password or fingerprint as an extra layer of defense against security breaches. Adding a privacy screen to your laptop and cell phone is another great option that will restrict what bystanders see.
- Don’t Disclose Your Whereabouts
It’s natural to want to share vacation photos and the details of your trip via your favorite social media channels. However, doing so makes you a running target to thieves who may be stalking your location, making it easy for them to break into your house or hotel. Turn off location sharing on your phone and make sure photos aren’t tagging your location. It’s always safest to post about your adventures after you return home to maximize your privacy and security.
- Back Up Your Data
Take a moment to back up your data to another device or cloud storage before heading out. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your data is tucked away safely if you lose your device or encounter a data breach.
- Do a Software Update
Make sure your device’s operating system and apps are fully up to date. Updating your device’s operating system will patch security weaknesses, fix bugs, add new features and shield you from hackers looking to exploit an outdated and vulnerable security flaw.
- Beware of Skimmers
Credit card skimmers are card readers attached to legitimate gas pumps, ATMs and other payment station card readers to steal credit card info as soon as you swipe to pay. Criminals can also hover a skimmer device over your wallet to extract credit card data. Using an RFID-blocking card holder will provide a protective barrier between your card and the skimmer. On physical card readers, be on the lookout for signs of tampering such as mismatched colors or materials near the screen, card slot and keypad and avoid swiping if something looks suspicious.
As the digital landscape grows, so does the attack surface and the unique cyber risks travelers face. With a good cybersecurity mindset and cyber safety tips in hand, you’ll be better prepared to safeguard your data no matter where you’re heading. Better yet, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy time with friends and family while keeping hackers away from your holiday plans.