Everyday, it seems, we hear about hacking, identity theft or some other invasion of our digital privacy. Here’s how to protect your online life from cyber criminals on the road, because vacations are not the time to relax your personal safety, which includes taking internet security precautions.
Before You Go
Patch Up. Check all your electronic devices for software updates. That means both devices staying at home and those going on the trip. Not running the latest system updates is like leaving your front door unlocked for cyber crooks to enter. 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, including before you travel. 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 if your devices are breached, stolen or misplaced.
Wipe Your History. Clear your browser cache files and remove saved passwords, espeially private information such as bank access, work emails and photos. That way you protect your most important data in case you accidentally connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi network while travelling.
Fake It. Create temporary passwords for sites you plan to acces while travelling. It is estimated that 60% of people use the same password, or a variation of one, for every account. If you get hacked while traveling, having a temporary “throwaway” password for email or social media will help protect you if your home accounts were compromised.
Pay Up. Avoid logging onto free public Wi-Fi networks that are often unsecure. It could end up costing you a lot more in the long run if a hacker has set up a benign looking “free” network to read everything on your computer.
Browse Safely. Make sure you are using a secured connection to websites when available. A simple “s” (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.
Double Down. Enable two-factor authentication on your important web services, such as email and social media accounts. That way, if someone does gain access to your passwords they need a second code to get in. Click here for guidelines for setting up two-factor authentication
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 share publicly online is a breadcrumb that 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 infecting your electronics is an increase in memory use or data use that cannot be otherwise explained.
These tips are from SNDR, a technology firm dedicated to restoring privacy to online communications for individuals like you and me, and for corporations.