Staying connected when on holiday or travelling is important for many people. But did you know that when you travel – especially when visiting other countries –you become increasingly vulnerable to online security breaches?
One of the biggest vulnerabilities comes when you use public WI-FI in hotels, shops, bars, airports, coffee shops, and other tourist destinations. The convenience of these networks and the fact that you don’t have to use up your mobile data allowance makes jumping online very alluring. But it’s worth understanding the risks and making sure that you keep all your devices protected.
BEFORE YOU GO
- GET THE LATEST OS: Before you travel, make sure that your laptop and your mobile devices are running the latest and fully updated operating system.
- BACKUP & UPDATE YOUR ANTIVIRUS: Better safe than sorry. Backup your data before you leave home and make sure that whatever programmes you use at home to keep your machine free from bugs and malware has recently updated.
- REVIEW YOUR PASSWORDS: Do your existing passwords measure up? The longer the better and a combination of letters plus numbers is best. For apps on mobile devices, consider using two-step authentication if possible.
- TWEAK YOUR SETTINGS: Optimise your device for being on the road by making sure that password protection is switched on and inactivity timeouts are set on all devices. Shorten time spans to their lowest settings.
- KEEP A LOWER SOCIAL PROFILE: Don’t broadcast holiday plans across social networking sites. If you’re leaving your home unoccupied for a few weeks it might not be the best idea to tell the whole world.
- LIMIT LOCATION SHARING APPS. All sorts of apps track our movements these days, Adjust settings for sharing your location on your social networking sites and any mapping apps on your smartphone.
- ADJUST PARENTAL CONTROLS. Many software products and browsers now include built-in privacy controls and safeguards that put parents in charge of children’s online experiences. Typically these allow you to set how personal information is, or is not, shared.
WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
- FIND THE RIGHT NETWORK: Take care to only use authentic and trustworthy internet services from brands you trust. Ask at your hotel, restaurant or airline for the name of their Wi-Fi. Then find the exact same network name. Beware of scams that attempt to look ‘similar’ to the real network name.
- PASSWORD ACCESS IS BETTER: Choose the most secure connection—even if that means you have to pay a small fee to gain temporary access. A password-protected connection (ideally one that is unique for your use) is better than one without a password.
- DON’T DOWNLOAD TO CONNECT: If the network asks you to ‘update software’ in order to connect, stop and disconnect immediately. It’s likely to be a scam.
- ONLY USE WPA2: Do not use Wi-Fi connections that are not encrypted with WPA2. You can usually find out by scrolling or hovering over the Wi-Fi network icon. Anything with lower standards e.g. (WEP, WPA) are not safe enough and can be easily exploited.
- AVOID SHOPPING OR BANKING: Avoid online banking and shopping when you’re using public Wi-Fi. If it can’t wait until you get home, it may be safer to use your mobile data plan. Roaming charges will of course apply.
- TICK THE RIGHT BOXES: When you sign up for temporary internet access, make sure you look for the opt-in / opt-out box which asks if you want to receive more information. Some require you to tick them to opt-in, some require you to tick them to opt-out, so read carefully otherwise you’ll be plagued by unwanted mail.
- BEWARE OF ‘PHISHING’ EMAILS: Watch out for suspicious messages from your friends and family claiming to be stuck abroad without any money, or an urgent message form your bank. ‘Phishing’ scam emails like this have been around for years, but people still get duped, especially when they are caught off guard in an unfamiliar place using an unfamiliar network.