With the explosion in mobile device sales around the world, it is easy to imagine that the number of people using the Internet while traveling has also increased significantly in recent years. With this increase in online activity, the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime increases. There are a number of steps travelers can take to protect themselves from cybercrime. Here are 10 tips for staying cyber-safe while traveling.
1. Keep your device with you
When traveling, it is important to always have your devices with you. This includes your laptop, smartphone, tablet, and any other device that contains sensitive information. If possible, keep them in your hand luggage or with you instead of checked baggage.
Do not leave your devices unattended in public places and be especially careful in crowded places like airports and coffee shops. If you must leave your device, make sure it is in a secure location where it cannot be hacked or stolen. Most hotels have a safe that is usually large enough to fit most laptops. If you’re renting an apartment, be sure to keep your mobile devices out of sight.
2. Use a VPN
You should use a personal virtual private network (VPN) as a matter of course whether you’re traveling or at home, but it’s especially important to use it when you travel. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, making it much harder for criminals to intercept your data. This is most important if you are using public Wi-Fi, which is often insecure and easily exploited by hackers.
There are many VPN providers available, so do some research to find the right one for you. They work on all devices and there is a VPN for iPhone, Windows and even your Xbox! A VPN is also handy when traveling because it allows you to access certain websites and services that may be blocked in your destination country. If you are somewhere that is blocked, such as Whatsapp or Skype, and you need to use them, you can set up a VPN to connect to your country and then these services will work fine. This is also true if your email provider blocks different geographic regions.
Note, however, that most VPN programs consume a lot of CPU resources and drain your battery faster than usual, so don’t keep your VPN constantly on unless it’s absolutely necessary. As a general rule, if you don’t need to be online, switch to airplane mode.
3. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an important security measure that should be used wherever possible. It adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring you to enter not only a password, but also a code generated by a separate device, such as a smartphone.
With two-factor authentication enabled, even if attackers manage to steal your password, they won’t be able to access your account without also having your second factor (code-generating device). This makes it much harder for them to successfully hack into your account.
Most 2FA providers also provide backup codes in case your device is down. You must make these codes available so that you are not banned from your own accounts. Like many of my colleagues, I recommend storing these codes on a separate medium, such as an encrypted USB drive, rather than in a password manager to keep them separate.
4. Avoid sending or receiving sensitive financial data on public networks.
If you’re waiting at an airport or coffee shop and need to complete an online banking or financial transaction, be aware that public Wi-Fi networks are often insecure. This means that criminals can potentially intercept any sensitive data you send or receive while connected to the network.
To avoid this, use only secure, encrypted websites when sending or receiving sensitive data. You can tell if a website is safe if the URL starts with https:// more likely than http://. You can also find a padlock icon in the address bar, which indicates that the site is using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption.
Also, make sure the Wi-Fi network you’re connecting to matches the location. Attackers can easily create a fake Wi-Fi network with a similar name to eavesdrop on your activities, so check the network name very carefully before connecting.
5. Use strong passwords and update them regularly
One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your online accounts is to use strong, unique passwords for each account. While many sites still use the old method of requiring at least eight characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, it is recommended that you use the newer passphrase recommendation whenever possible. Of course, the password manager is the best option, including the longest, randomly generated and easily updated mechanisms.
6. Be careful what you click on
One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to gain access to your devices and accounts is to trick you into clicking on a malicious link. This is often done via email, but it can also happen on social media and other websites.
If you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know, be very careful not to click on any links or attachments it may contain. And even if the email is from someone you know, if it looks suspicious or out of character, it’s best to play it safe and not click anything.
The same applies to the links you see on social media or other sites. If a link looks suspicious, don’t click on it. And if you’re not sure if a website is legit or not, do a quick search using your favorite search platform to check before entering any sensitive information into a site.
7. Keep your software up to date
One of the best ways to protect your devices from attacks is to keep your software up to date. This includes your operating system, web browser, applications, and any other software you use. Software updates often contain security patches to help protect your device from the latest threats.
Whenever you see a notification that an update is available, be sure to install it as soon as possible. You can usually do this automatically so you don’t have to worry about doing it manually.
There are a number of different security tools and services that can help keep you safe online. These include tools that will notify you if a hack is detected on your device. Some mobile operators offer these services as part of their data packages.
9. Buy a local SIM card
If you want to avoid the dangers of open networks while traveling, one of the best things you can do is buy a local SIM card and use it to set up mobile hotspots. This is a particularly good strategy when you need to send or receive sensitive data.
Most countries have travel SIM packages that you can buy that will give you a predetermined amount of data to use for a set period of time. This is usually much cheaper than using your home data plan abroad.
Some countries have more cybercrime than others. If you are somewhere where you know there is a strong possibility that your credit card details will be stolen – such as when using an ATM or buying a plane ticket online – make sure you keep a close eye on your transactions for fraud. .
If you notice any unfamiliar charges, report them to your credit card company immediately. The sooner you detect fraud, the less likely you are to be held liable for charges. Your card company should also try to issue you a new card as soon as possible so you don’t run out of money.
By following the tips above, you can keep yourself safe from cybercrime while traveling. Just remember to be vigilant and take precautions when using public Wi-Fi, sharing sensitive information, and following links from unknown sources.
With some awareness and care, you can enjoy your travels without worrying about becoming a victim of cybercrime.
about the author: Passionate about working on breakthrough products, Anas Baig is currently a Product Lead at SECURITI.ai. He holds a BSc in Computer Science and received his BSc from Iqra University. His interests include information security, networking, privacy and data protection.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this guest-author article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tripwire, Inc.