Summer is a time to get away — time to take your dream vacation, go to the lake, or visit relatives out-of-state.
Many travelers check emails and the status of work projects, read social media posts and play games on their devices while waiting for a plane or stretching out on the beach.
It’s not surprising that many cyber criminals target travelers.
Fortunately, with a little care, it is possible to protect yourself and avoid potential problems.
Here are some tips to help you keep connected, but in a secure manner:
Sharing Isn’t Always Caring
- Avoid publicly posting where and when you will be traveling. When you reveal these specific details, you are providing information that could be used by criminals to target your home or your family while you are gone. Sending private posts and photos during your vacation to family and friends is ok; however, if you post them publicly, you increase the risk of someone using that information for malicious activities.
- Just as important as using discretion when posting, is making sure your children and friends understand the risks associated with posting your vacation plans.
- Do not use public computers and open wireless networks for sensitive online transactions. Wi-Fi spots in airports, hotels, coffee shops and other public places can be convenient but they are often not secure and can leave you at risk. If you are accessing the Internet through an unsecured network, you should be aware that malicious individuals might be able to eavesdrop on your connection. This could allow them to steal your log-in credentials, financial information, or other sensitive information. Any public Wi-Fi should be considered “unsecure.”
- Turn off features on your computer or mobile device that allow you to automatically connect to Wi-Fi and other services such as social media websites. Consider using a cellular 3G/4G connection as a hotspot, which is generally safer than an open Wi-Fi connection. If you do connect through your hotel’s Wi-Fi, verify the name of the Wi-Fi hotspot with hotel staff.
- Password protect your devices so if they are lost or stolen, the information is protected; and enable device tracking.
- Make sure your laptop and other mobile devices have the latest patches installed. Your software vendor should notify you whenever an update is available. Set your device to auto update.
- Back up your data with another device or cloud service
- Use of security software is a must. Some programs can also locate a missing or stolen phone, tablet or other similar device, while others will back up your data and can even remotely wipe all data from the phone, if it is reported stolen. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed, updated and running.
- Do not access sensitive accounts (e.g. banks, credit cards, etc.) or conduct sensitive transactions over public networks, including hotel and airport Wi-Fi and business centers, or Internet cafes. Use wired connections instead of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections, whenever possible.
- Do not plug USB cables into public charging stations; only connect USB powered devices using the intended AC power adapter.
- Keep in mind that if you are traveling abroad, different countries have different laws, which may allow government employees or law enforcement full access to your mobile devices without your knowledge or permission. It also is important to know the local laws regarding online behavior. Some online behaviors, such as posting disparaging comments or pictures of illegal activity on social media websites, can be illegal in a foreign country.
More information is available in the User Recommendations section of the CIS Primer on Overseas Travel at: https://msisac.cisecurity.org/whitepaper/documents/CIS%20Primer%20-%20Overseas%20Travel.pdf.
For more information about how to stay safe in cyberspace, visit the Center for Internet Security at www.cisecurity.org .