Typical travelers heading out on their summer vacation check that they have the right supplies and clothes for their trip before they hit the road. Expert travelers will also ensure they are educated and prepared to be cyber-safe with their devices and data!
Think of your smartphone and devices as important as your wallet. These devices contain everything from your banking and payment information to your treasured family photos. Ensuring they are secure and protected when away from home is paramount. In partnership with the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA), here are some tips, strategies, and resources to aid you in being secure during your travels.
To do before your trip:
- Update your devices: One of the most effective ways to stay cyber-secure is to continuously update your devices. Those updates don’t just contain new features, but fix security flaws and keep you protected!
- Password/Passcode-protect your devices: Always establish a strong passcode with at least 6 numbers or a swipe pattern with at least 1 turn of direction when protecting the lock screen of your smartphone. On laptops, a minimum of 8 character password or phrase is recommended, including uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
- Set your device to lock after an amount of time: Once you have the passcode, password, or swipe pattern established, you should set an automatic device lock prompting for the access code after a specified time of inactivity. This will prevent a criminal from getting onto your device if you accidentally leave it unlocked.
- Book your trip with trusted sites: When booking transportation, lodging, and experiences, it is important to complete those transactions with trusted, known businesses. If possible, double check the reviews and reputation of a site you are considering to use for your booking. By sticking to reputable sites, you guarantee a higher standard of security for your data and transaction.
Staying secure and connected during your trip:
- Keep track of your devices: Not only are the actual devices worth a great deal of money, the sensitive information that is accessible by that device is the most valuable. Ensure that you keep your devices close at hand or secured away safely when not in use. Theft of mobile devices is unfortunately common and can spoil a fun trip.
- Limit your activity on public Wi-Fi networks: Public Wi-Fi that does not require credentials or logging in is not protected by encryption, which means your online activity is not shielded from prying eyes. To ensure your information is at risk, avoid logging into your personal accounts or making transactions while on public or hotel networks.
- Use your phone carrier’s internet connection, or use your phone as a personal hotspot (if your cell carrier’s plan allows) when logging into personal accounts or conducting transactions.
- Ensure your device is set to ask your permission before connecting to a wireless network.
- If you intend to use a hotel or establishment’s customer wireless network, verify what network is the correct one to use with a member of the staff. Many scammers will setup their own networks with similar names to spy on user activity.
- Don’t overshare on social media: Consider posting updates about your trip after you return. Criminals may see that you are away from home and attempt to steal from your home! If you share too many details about where you are, some scammers may attempt to contact your family and friends with a variety of scam tactics. Additionally, consider setting your social media accounts to only allow friends to view your posts and content.
By following these tips and being a cyber-safe traveler, you will have a smooth and enjoyable vacation!