Whether you're a seasoned globetrotter or a weekend warrior, every adventure comes with a hidden risk: the threat to your digital security.
While pickpockets and lost passports are travel woes of old, modern dangers lurk in the shadows of Wi-Fi hotspots and public charging stations.
So, step up your travel game with these essential cybersecurity tips and keep your data safe wherever your journeys take you.
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Use a VPN
If you’re staying in a hotel while traveling, your internet connection likely won’t be secure. That gives hackers an easy way to steal your data.
One of the best ways to protect your data in these situations is by using a virtual private network or VPN. This is a great way to encrypt data and hide your IP address from prying eyes.
When you are at home, the odds are good that you select the auto-connect option for your Wi-Fi and internet connection for convenience. However, leaving this setting activated means you might accidentally connect to a nefarious network when traveling.
So, before you travel, turn off this feature on your phone, laptop, tablet, and other electronic devices, just to be safe.
Update your devices
While it is important to ensure your internet connection is secure, it’s equally vital that the devices you use to connect to the web are also secure.
Before you travel, fully update all electronic devices you plan to take. And if you have downloaded any security software, make sure that gets updated as well.
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Bring your own chargers
There are a host of clever travel scams that data thieves can use to steal your information. One of the more difficult-to-detect schemes is “juice jacking.”
To commit this crime, scammers could potentially load malware on USB port charging stations. You can find these free stations in busy areas such as airports and the lobbies of hotels.
It is important to note that while “juice jacking” is technically possible, the Federal Communications Commission says there are no confirmed instances where it has been used.
Still, it makes sense to play it safe and use your own portable charger to charge devices.
Enable two-factor authentication
Odds are good that your email, social media accounts, and many apps have asked you to enable two-factor authentication. Make sure you do so before traveling so you can protect your data.
Instead of simply requiring a password, two-factor authentication also asks for a code or PIN. This request is usually sent to another device, such as your phone or computer.
While two-factor authentication doesn’t make your accounts hack-proof, it does provide a bit of extra security.
Back up your data
Securing your data isn’t just about protecting it from a security breach. Instead, you also want to prepare for such a breach in case it happens despite your best efforts.
Backing up information can help you recover if your data is breached. If you're hacked and have to wipe your devices, it helps to have that information backed up safely at home.
So, transfer a copy of this important data to a USB or external hard drive.
Use device managers
An easy way for hackers to steal your personal information is by stealing your devices. The risk of such a theft looms large when traveling, especially to popular tourist destinations.
If your device is stolen, having a tracker or manager can be a tremendous help, as it can help you track where the device is.
Apple has a tracker called Find My, which can track any number of Apple products. Android has Google Find My Device.
Change passwords before and after your trip
A strong password is one of the best ways to protect your accounts and information. Changing your passwords frequently works even better.
So, change passwords before you travel to something especially strong. When you return home, change passwords again. That way, if anyone stole your passwords while you were traveling, they couldn’t get into your accounts.
Also, ensure each account has its unique password rather than sharing a single one among all accounts.
While many hackers use advanced, sneaky techniques to steal your data, some hackers use simple tricks like looking over your shoulder and snooping.
Using a VPN can help protect your data, but it won’t stop people from snooping. If you’re using a phone or laptop in public, be careful to shield your screen.
Ensure that people aren’t watching you when you enter sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
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Ask for a loaner device
If you’re traveling for work or school, consider asking your company or school if it will lend you a work-specific phone or computer so you can protect your personal information.
These devices usually have their own encryption and can be wiped clean of data when you get back home and return them to your company’s IT department.
Keep an eye on your devices
While it may seem obvious, an important way to protect the data on your devices is by keeping an eye on the devices themselves. Don’t leave your phone or computer unsupervised in public spaces, and be wary of pickpockets in popular tourist spots.
Similarly, keep your devices locked in the safety lockbox when leaving your hotel room. That way, no one with access to your room can steal your information.
Limit what you store digitally
Most of our information is stored digitally now, including data associated with our bank accounts and credit cards. However, if you can avoid storing it digitally when traveling, you should.
For example, make sure your devices do not carry lists of passwords or your Social Security number, driver’s license number, or address.
In today's digital world, a lost passport is no longer the only worry on your travel itinerary.
Data breaches and identity theft can loom large, casting a shadow over your hard-earned vacation. Don't let your digital security be an afterthought.
Pack these precautionary tips alongside your sunscreen and top travel credit cards, and safeguard your data so you can truly enjoy every moment of your adventure.
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