Whether you’re regularly traveling for business, a once-a-year saver or a high-tech adventurer seeker, travel – particularly abroad – poses unique cybersecurity threats.
Business travellers are especially vulnerable because they often carry sensitive data, both personal and business related, on a variety of devices. In their eagerness to experience all the wonders of traveling- especially leisure destinations, travellers are prone to overlooking risks to their physical and digital security. Criminals know this, which is why they target people carrying cameras, sporting backpacks or exhibiting other signs of tourism.
Prevent travel-related crime before it happens by preparing yourself as well as you do your travel itinerary with our 12 cybersecurity tips for travelling…
1: Backup your data – Before you leave, make sure all critical data on your devices are backed up,either to local storage or to a cloud service protected by strong encryption.
2: Lock Devices Down – Activate remote locate and lock features that are now standard on all major smartphones and tablets so that you can disable devices if lost or stolen. Lock your device/s using a PIN number or fingerprint ID. While traveling, change the PIN numbers you regularly use. In the event that any of your devices have been momentarily misplaced or forgotten, this will be the first line of defence against a security breach. Implement password security on all devices and specify a maximum number of failed attempts — between five and seven is typically sufficient — before lockout.
3: Take Basic Physical Security Precautions – A stolen wallet is every traveler’s nightmare. You can minimise the potential damage by only carrying essential items with you, such as a passport or driver’s license, one or two credit cards, and a minimal amount of cash. Keep everything else in a safe at home or in your hotel room, and invest in a money belt or pouch that can be concealed underneath your clothing. You should also take photos of all of your important documents, including credit cards. Store them on an encrypted flash drive or upload them to a secure cloud. That way, you at least have access to basic forms of identity and critical phone numbers in case your wallet goes missing.
4: Use Two-Factor Authentication – At least one of the access controls in two-factor authentication should be a password of nine characters or longer. The second may be fingerprint, face, voice or pattern recognition, or verification through an authenticator app. Email is the most important service to secure because criminals can use email addresses to reset passwords on other sites. If your email account is compromised, it essentially gives attackers free rein to access all your other services — yet another reason to use two-factor authentication.
5: Be Careful When Using Public Wi-Fi – Many restaurants, airports and hotels offer free Wi-Fi services. It’s tempting to use them, but be careful. Many have no security at all, meaning that your keystrokes can be easily intercepted by anyone else on the network. Only use sites that employ the HTTPS protocol – secure sites. Most browsers now tell you if your connection is insecure and give you a chance to opt out — pay attention to those warnings. For basic travel security, turn off file- and print-sharing in your network settings, and be sure your firewall is active and up to date. If you must use a public Wi-Fi, avoid accessing personal accounts or sensitive data while connected to that network. For an extra layer of security on public Wi-Fi, subscribe to a public VPN service. This sets up a secure tunnel between you and the sites you connect to, protecting your data with strong encryption. It’s inexpensive insurance, with most plans starting at less than USD $10 per month. In addition, always charge your mobile devices using your own equipment plugged directly into the wall, since public charging stations can be compromised to install malware.
6: Disable Auto-Connect – Most phones have a setting that allows a device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks as you pass through them on your day-to-day activities. While this is a nice feature when used at home, it’s not something you should allow while traveling abroad. Before you travel, change this setting so that your smartphone and laptop must be manually connected each time you wish to access the Web.
7: Minimise Location Sharing – We know you want to tell everyone about your big adventure, but posting details on social media while you’re away is an invitation to burglars. Snap all you want, but wait until your travel is over before sharing all your great photos. By signalling your every location, you make it easy for a criminal to determine that you’re not in your hotel room or at your home, leaving your personal belongings within these areas vulnerable to a physical intrusion.
8: Use a Password Manager – If you use different passwords for each sensitive website, good for you. But if you store those passwords in a plaintext file, email or spreadsheet on your mobile device, you’ve undone all your good work. Password managers store all your login credentials and even credit card and personal information in a secure vault, usually protected by encryption. There are more than a dozen password managers to choose from, and most are inexpensive and work across multiple platforms. They’re far from perfect, but they do take the pain out of keeping track of multiple secure passwords, and most can generate passwords for you.
9: Install Anti-Virus Protection – This is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can keep your personal information, as well as company information, secure while traveling. In addition to using a trusted brand of security, make sure that you regularly update this software as new versions become available.
10: Update Operating Systems – Just like your anti-virus software, you should keep your operating system as current as possible. This also goes for apps on your phone; take special care to update apps that you regularly use to conduct financial or personal business.
11: Update Passwords – If you plan on traveling, change all of the passwords you regularly use. Similarly, if you must create a PIN for a safe or security box in a hotel room, make sure it’s unique and not something you commonly use. Don’t skimp on password creation either—a numerical sequence is not ideal. Take the time to create something that will keep a criminal out of your personal property. Once you return home, you can change all the passwords back.
12: Disable Bluetooth Connectivity – Just like your phone’s automatic Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity can present problems. Bluetooth signals can come from anywhere. If your Bluetooth is left on, nearby assailants can connect to your phone and potentially hack into your device. Keep Bluetooth disabled as much as possible while traveling abroad.
Travel security concerns shouldn’t prevent you from having a great vacation, but they sure can prevent you from having a lousy one.