Vacations are a time to kick back and forget about the worries of everyday life. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about what cybersecurity risks you’re exposed to. In fact, traveling can present unique cybersecurity risks. Whether you’re at the beach or even just at your local coffee shop, carrying sensitive information on the go can open you up to additional vulnerabilities.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when traveling
Backup data and update your software before you go
Packing shouldn’t be the only thing you do when preparing to travel. Before you go, be sure to back up your data and update the software on your devices.
There is a lot to keep track of when you travel, and sometimes things get lost. Creating a backup of important information will ensure you can recover anything important on that iPad you left in the seat pocket of the airplane.
Checking for any software updates on your devices is also essential. Keeping your systems and apps up to date will ensure you have latest security patches and help defend against malware attacks.
Be careful about using public wi-fi
Whether at the airport, hotel, or coffee shop, public Wi-Fi might not be as secure as your connection at home or in the office. These can be good spots for hackers with “pineapples” — wifi devices which intercept traffic and can perform “man-in-the-middle” attacks where you connect to the pineapple thinking you are connecting to the public wifi and the pineapple logs all your traffic (keystrokes, websites visited, login info, etc).
If you have to use a vulnerable connection, avoid accessing sensitive accounts or anything containing personal information. Only use sites that begin with “https://” when online shopping or banking. Using your mobile network connection is generally more secure than using a public wireless network. However, your best bet for any public Wi-Fi is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN’s will hide your IP address and reroute your connection through a private server.
Often, your devices will automatically scan and connect to available networks or other devices. This could lead you to unintentionally connect to an unsecure network, which bad guys with pineapples can use to gain access to your devices. Make sure to turn this feature off on all devices and always double check that you’re only connected to devices and networks you trust.
Don’t use public computers
Using public computers at a hotel work center or an internet café can pose some serious risks. You can’t be sure the computers are up to date and have proper security software installed. There have been a number of cases where public computers contain malware that logs your keystrokes. This can be used to steal passwords, card numbers, and any other sensitive data you might enter into the computer.
Lock and guard devices
We often think about information getting stolen by someone who remotely hacks into our device. But it’s also possible for this to happen if someone steals the device itself. Along with keeping a close eye on your belongings, make sure you use password protection, fingerprint authentication, or other types locks for all your devices. This will help prevent someone from accessing sensitive information in the event your device gets stolen.
Scan for malware when you get home
Even if you follow all these tips, you can’t always be 100% certain that you weren’t exposed to some sort of attack. After you get home, use an anti-virus software to run a full scan of your device to ensure there isn’t anything fishy lurking anywhere.
Also published on Medium.