Editor’s Note: Increasingly we rely on online resources—whether it’s our phone, our tablet, our laptop—for travel and for just about everything else. But as much as the convenience of the internet makes travel and our lives easier, thieves are taking advantage of our dependence on the web. RFT’s Ski & Dive Editor, Yvette Cardozo, recently talked with a security expert and discovered there are some pretty easy ways you can protect yourself from cyber-thieves.—BH, Editor
You might worry about flight delays, bad weather and disappointing accommodations when thinking about what could ruin your vacation. But the lack of secure Internet access that reveal your social media posts and your haphazard habits online can wreak havoc on your travel plans and the ill effects can last long after beach tans fade and skis are put away.
SNDR™ CEO and security expert Shaun Murphy (www.sndr.com) has created a series of tips you can use to help keep your personal information and private files safe while away from home.
Even if you don’t want to do all of these, just a few of the common sense ones, such as updating your operating system and anti virus/malware programs and apps and being cautious using free Wi-Fi,) can help a lot.
Prep Before You Go
Patch Up. Packing, printing airline tickets and organizing maps are not the only to-do list items you need to tend to before a vacation begins. Check all devices (those staying at home and those going on the trip) for software updates. Not running system updates is like putting out the welcome mat for cybercriminals. Operating system security holes that could have easily been patched with a quick click can leave you vulnerable to hacks.
Remove Data. Backing up is always important, but before you travel it is essential. Removing unnecessary sensitive data from your devices going on the trip, including photos, videos, financial documents and stored passwords, can save you from heartache and headaches down the road if your devices are breached, stolen or misplaced
Wipe Your History. Clear your browser cache files and remove saved passwords. If you accidentally connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi network while traveling do not make it effortless for criminals to steal your private information such as bank access, work emails or photos.
Fake It. Create temporary passwords for sites you plan to access while traveling. An estimated 60% of people use the same password, or a variation, for every account. If you get hacked while traveling, having a temporary “throwaway” password for email or social media will prevent worry if your home accounts were compromised.
Pay Up. Avoid logging onto free Wi-Fi networks that are unsecure. If you do not have to ask a store or restaurant owner or employee for a password it isn’t worth saving a few dollars to check your email for free. It could end up costing you a lot more in the long run if a hacker has set up a benign looking “free” network that he or she is using to read everything on your computer
Browse Safely. When available, make sure you are using a secured connection to websites. A simple https:// instead of http:// in your web browser’s URL bar will protect you from most threats local and remote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a utility that will automatically use a secure connection for you. Learn more about it at https://www.eff.org/Https-everywhere
Double Down. Enable two-factor authentication on your important web services (email, social media, etc) so in the event that someone does gain access to your passwords they need a second code to get in. Guidelines for setting up two-factor authentication can be found at http://www.google.com/landing/2step.
Privatize Wi-Fi. For additional security when using a Wi-Fi network at a hotel or airport, consider using a VPN on your laptop. A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a third-party server, and all your Internet traffic is routed through that server. Snoopers on the network will only see encrypted data.
Share Wisely. While it is tempting to post about a vacation on social media or keep a blog about your adventures to stay in touch with family and friends, resist the urge. Every tidbit of information you publicly share online is a breadcrumb criminals can use to piece together a snapshot of your life that can lead to them to cracking your passwords and hacking your digital accounts.
Shut down. Switch off the wireless connection on your phone, tablet and laptop when they are not in use. By keeping the connection off you are taking another step in protecting your digital identity, by preventing an opportunity for criminals to automatically connect to your device on an open network without you ever knowing what happened.
After Returning Home
Sweep Clean. Running a security sweep when you get home is a wise precaution. Check your computer and other devices for spyware, malware and viruses. One indication that malware could be looking is an increase in memory use or data use that is otherwise inexplicable. — By Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor