Going away on holiday should be fun and carefree yet cyber-crime is a very real risk when bringing your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone away with you. Attackers are relentless and often opportunistic; they’re on the lookout for their next victim. There are many simple steps that can be taken to secure the data on your devices to prevent an enjoyable holiday turning into a disaster.
Avoid connecting to Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi in hotels, coffee shops, or bars can be convenient but connecting to Public Wi-Fi leaves you vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks where your data can be intercepted. At the very least, someone could be looking at your browsing activity but far worse is that they could also steal passwords or financial information from you. Another risk is that you might unknowingly connect to an ‘Evil-Twin’ hotspot that has been set up by cybercriminals to look similar to the genuine Wi-Fi hotspot.
It is much safer to use your 3G, 4G or 5G connection from your network provider. However, if you must use public Wi-Fi, there are a number of ways you can reduce the risks:
- Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The tool will send your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel and this makes it almost impossible to hijack;
- Double-check with the hotel, bar, or café, etc. that you have the correct Wi-Fi connection;
- Avoid visiting websites where sensitive information is exchanged: online banking; social media accounts; and websites for making purchases. It is safer to limit your internet usage to browsing;
- Turn off Wi-Fi on your device until you want to use it and remember to turn it off again when you no longer need it.
- Apply software updates on your devices as doing so makes it more difficult for attackers to exploit known vulnerabilities.
Temporary Travel Accounts
Many websites or applications do not need your personal information to function. Creating new and separate accounts, including a new email address, solely related to your upcoming trip is a good way of keeping your personal data secure. You can then use these accounts to register for things just for your trip and then close the accounts when you get back home. If these accounts are compromised then the potential consequences will be relatively limited
Prefer credit cards to debit cards
When making online purchases, consider using a credit card instead of a debit card. Unlike debit cards, credit cards provide protection against fraud. If an attacker uses money from your debit card, they are making an immediate withdrawal from your own account. This makes it difficult to trace or get back. With credit cards, they are spending your credit card issuer’s money, which is easier to track and manage in case of fraudulent activities.
Losing your device
Laptops, mobile phones and tablets are easy to lose and an easy target for thieves. Make sure that your device is protected just in case it is lost or stolen by setting up a password, PIN, or with a thumbprint or face scan. Create new and strong passwords just before your trip and set up multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication is a second identity check that is made when you login to your accounts and is often a code sent to your phone or email address after you have entered in your password. Don’t forget to enable the remote deletion option on your phone so that you can erase the data on your device if it is lost or stolen.
Backing up the data on your devices is always wise regardless of whether you are going away though creating back ups before your trip means that a loss or theft is limited to your device and doesn’t include sensitive data or cherished photographs. Data from your mobile phone or tablet can be uploaded to the Cloud, whereas for laptops the data can be copied to an external hard drive, a USB flash drive or also uploaded to the Cloud.
Social Media posts – who’s watching?
Posting on social media about upcoming holiday plans and posting photos whilst on holiday are common things to do, but you could be making your home an easy target for thieves. This is enough information that can be gleaned from a profile to make it clear that you’re not coming home very soon, where you are staying and who you’re with. Tagging people who will be travelling with you puts them (and you) at risk by disclosing plans and locations. Do not assume that your privacy settings will shield this information from unfriendly eyes. A friend or family member could have left their social media account open on a publicly-accessible computer and had their communications intercepted when using public Wi Fi. Instead consider posting your holiday experiences when you return home and checking with others about tags.