AAA forecasts that almost 50 million Americans will travel this Thanksgiving season. That is the highest number since 2007 and up about 1 million over last year. Travel will be up with Christmas and New Year’s Day both falling on a weekend this year.
People are traveling with lots of devices, many of which are could be hacked. There are a number of ways to reduce a traveler’s cyber security risk while traveling.
Top 15 Tips for Cyber Secure Traveling
1. If you are going to be somewhere with lots of people and where everyone leaves their phones around, add a screen saver that quickly identifies the device as yours. Reduce the chance of someone inadvertently walking off with your phone and then it falling into the hands of someone else that tries to hack it.
2. Update your software, anti-virus and location app before you go. Better security will be on your phone with these updates.
3. Leave it behind – don’t even take your business laptop or company-use smartphone if possible. Consider using temporary devices if you have to work. If you are going somewhere other than to know friends or family, consider purchasing a temporary smartphone or tablet. Use different passwords than on your normal devices.
4. Encrypt sensitive data. Leave as much data off your device as you can. Temporary devices for travel-only use make it easy to just load what you need and encrypt the data that you have to take.
5. Use your cell service instead of Wi-Fi if possible. It is generally safer than Wi-Fi connections.
6. Don’t use public Wi-Fi spots. Lots of hackers use public spots to hack into devices. Don’t disclose on your device any information you don’t want to be seen or read by an unauthorized person.
7. Don’t use hotel or other public computers. Results of several tests show that these computers frequently have malware on them. You have no idea who used the device before you and may have added malware.
8. Don’t leave devices in a hotel room. Take them with you or lock them in a hotel safe. If a criminal gains access to your hotel room, he can add malware in a minute and leave the device in place.
9. Turn your Bluetooth device off when not in use. Some devices allow for automatic connection which allows other Bluetooth devices to connect to your device without you knowing it.
10. Only charge your devices directly with a connection to an outlet. Don’t risk transferring malware from an unknown charging station or a computer. Be sure to pack those adapters.
11. Turn off auto location and check-in applications. Don’t make it easy for criminals to easily identify where you are.
12. Selfies and group photos can be great fun during the holidays. But don’t post your pictures until you return. Help prevent any lurking criminals from easily tracking you.
13. If you are traveling out of the country, know if that country monitors digital communications by foreigners. What you say may be a joke in America, but may not be in another country.
14. If you are traveling out of the country, leave your ereader or other device with books and documents at home. Download only reading material that will not be considered as pornography (even risqué romance novels fit this definition in some countries), controversial, or political.
15. Change your passwords when you return. If someone did access your devices while you were on vacation, reduce the potential for later damage by changing passwords.
Relax and enjoy the holidays! Being cyber safe can help reduce your worries. For additional details, the Dept. of Homeland Security has posted a Travel Tip Card. Another useful source of information is the Government of Canada site with travel cyber tips.
About the Author - Carolyn Schrader is a seasoned cybersecurity professional and founder of the Cyber Security Group Inc., providing corporate cybersecurity services to high profile clients.
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