With restrictions against traveling lifting, you may be looking to jet-set to your next international destination. Or maybe you are planning a trip to your favorite vacation spot in Florida. Whether traveling for leisure or trying to make it to that 3 pm business meeting in Manhattan, travelers are inherently more vulnerable to fall victim to a bad actor for many reasons. Even the most steadfast and responsible travelers can be misled and fall victim to exploitations from cyberattacks. With that said, you should not let the threat of malicious software or those who seek to exploit your devices or data preclude you from enjoying your next vacation. Take a look below at some simple but constructive ways to protect you and your family’s systems and information from unwarranted cyberattacks.
First and Foremost: Back it Up
Let’s face it, even if you weren’t traveling, we’d recommend you back up your files. Nearly a third of all PC users have experienced total data loss that was beyond their own control. Scarier still is that nearly two-thirds of consumers experienced data loss to a certain extent. Even if your backup is somewhat out of date, photos, financial documents, schoolwork, media, and other documents and files aren’t valued as much as they should be until after an incident occurs, so backing up your files before you hit the road is considered best practice. A disaster like this is unfortunate, and backups will allow you to travel safely knowing that in the event you lose your devices, you haven’t lost your data.
Swipes, Locks, and Passcodes
It seems to be such a simple thing, but passwords are the first line of defense against intruders. In 2018, Kaspersky Labs completed a study and found that over half of consumers did not password-protect their phones. Moreover, the list of the most used passwords includes password, qwerty, and 12345 (Hey! That’s the combination on my luggage!) Also, a study completed at Virginia Tech found that 52% of users reused passwords or modification of passwords and a reported 81% of data breaches are related to password problems. The takeaway: simple passwords are well known, and data breaches occur commonly due to passcode absence or simplicity, password protect yourself and make sure password complexity is met! We often recommend a nonsensical sentence that will be much harder to crack.
Location, Location, Location (Un)Sharing
We all receive those notifications on our phones and click through them. “Would you like to share your location with…” This is common regardless of your location. By clicking on this, you may be sending a signal to identity thieves and criminals your whereabouts, signaling that you may be away from your hotel room or away from your computer temporarily. 65% of Americans reportedly have never used the location sharing feature on their phones, this is good practice. While on your travels, be diligent while sharing your location. You can rest easier while traveling by taking that one extra second to look at the popup on your phone to make sure you know the source and prevent harmful predators from finding you and your devices.
Public Internets and Wi-Fis
Often is the case that while traveling you are relying on unsecured internet access from hotels, airports, stores, or other sources. Many people do not recognize the fact that the data they are accessing or sending via these networks can be accessed by anyone who is looking for it. Whether it is on your laptop or your mobile device, make sure you are only using fully encrypted websites (look for https – the “s” stands for secure) while connected to public wi-fis and never access personal or information. While websites have a clear indicator of their encryption status, many mobile apps do not, and often don’t handle data in a private manner, so we urge extra caution using mobile devices on unsecured networks. Finally, always log out of accounts when you are done so no one else can access them.
It should come as no surprise that these best practices are similar to those echoed by IT professionals about your everyday life. However, the threat level when traveling is undoubtedly higher due to the unfamiliarity of location for the traveler. The chance criminals and cyber attackers may seek to commit theft or gain access to your devices is often increased as tourists and travelers are easy targets. Additional steps like disabling Bluetooth and keeping your software up to date can also go a long way in keeping yourself safe while on the road.
If you want to discuss, contact us to hear more about how we can help keep you protected at home and abroad!