The holiday travel season provides numerous opportunities for hacking of your devices while your enjoy yourself with friends and family. Savvy travelers should take some time before leaving to ensure they are well protected.
A recent story from a friend reinforced the value of this preparation before traveling. A few months ago he attended a Homeland Security conference, staying at one of the conference’s designated hotels. Unfortunately, his iPad picked up malware at the conference hotel or in the conference center itself. He didn’t discover the malware infection until months later. He had frequent problems with his personal laptop at home recognizing the printer using the home Wi-Fi connection. The help desk at the printer company was fabulous and helped diagnosis the problem. It was determined that the malware had moved from the iPad to the home router to the printer and was operating as a bot. Fortunately, the home network had strong passwords, antivirus software, and offsite backup. No additional damage was detected. After 4 hours online with a cyber security specialist, the malware was removed from various devices, patches to the printer installed and the system is clean and secure again.
Even well protected systems can catch malware. So if you are traveling this holiday season, here are some reminders to strengthen your cyber security measures.
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 known 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. Public spots include hotels, restaurants, coffee places, airports, and stores. 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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