With the massive increase in mobile device sales around the world, it’s easy to imagine that the number of people using the internet while traveling has also increased significantly in recent years. With this growth in online activity comes an increased risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. Travelers can take a number of steps to avoid becoming the target of cybercrime. Here are 10 tips to ensure your cybersecurity while traveling.
1. Keep your device with you
When traveling, it’s important to keep your devices with you at all times. This includes your laptop, smartphone, tablet and any other device containing sensitive information. If possible, keep them in hand luggage or on your person rather than in checked luggage.
Don’t leave your devices unattended in public places and be especially careful in crowded places like airports and cafes. If you must leave your device behind, make sure it’s in a secure place where it can’t be tampered with or stolen. Most hotels have a safe that is usually big 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
Of course, you should use a personal virtual private network (VPN) whether you’re traveling or at home, but it’s especially important to use one when traveling. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, making it much harder for criminals to intercept your data. This is very important if you use public Wi-Fi, which is often insecure and easy to exploit 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 are VPNs for iPhone, Windows, and even your Xbox! A VPN is also a handy thing to have while traveling as it lets you access certain sites and services that may be blocked in your destination country. If you’re in a place that blocks Whatsapp or Skype, for example, and you need to use them, you can configure your VPN to connect to your home country, and then those services will work normally. This is also true if your email provider blocks various geographic regions.
Please note, however, that most VPN software is CPU-intensive and will drain your battery faster than normal, so don’t keep the VPN on all the time unless absolutely necessary. Generally, 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 you should use wherever possible. It adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts by requiring you to enter not only your password, but also a code generated by a separate device, such as your smartphone.
With 2FA enabled, even if malicious actors manage to steal your password, they won’t be able to access your account without also having your second factor (the code generator device). This makes it much harder for them to successfully hack your account.
Most 2FA providers also provide backup codes in case your device is unavailable. You must ensure that these codes are available so that you are not locked out of your own accounts. Like many of my peers, I recommend storing these codes on a separate media device, like an encrypted USB drive, rather than in a password manager, to keep them separate.
4. Avoid sending or receiving sensitive financial data over public networks
If you’re waiting at an airport or cafe and need to do some online banking or financial transaction, be aware that public Wi-Fi networks are often not secure. This means that criminals could potentially intercept any sensitive data you send or receive while connected to the network.
To avoid this, only use secure and encrypted websites when sending or receiving sensitive data. You can tell if a website is secure if the URL starts with https:// rather than http://. You can also look for a padlock icon in the address bar, which indicates that the site uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption.
Also make sure that the Wi-Fi network you are connecting to is the correct one for the location. Criminals can easily set up a fake Wi-Fi network with a similar name to spy on your activity, 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 mandate an old method requiring at least eight characters and a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, the new passphrase recommendation is recommended where possible. Of course, a password manager is the best option, allowing for 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 when clicking on any links or attachments it may contain. And even if the email is from someone you know, if it looks suspicious or abnormal, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not click anything.
The same goes for any links you see on social media or other websites. If a link looks suspicious, don’t click on it. And if you’re unsure whether a website is legit or not, do a quick search using your favorite search platform to double-check, before entering sensitive information on the 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, apps, and any other software you use. Software updates often include security patches that can help protect your device against the latest threats.
Whenever you see a notification that an update is available, make 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 you stay safe online. These include tools that will notify you if a compromise is detected on your device. Several mobile carriers offer these services as part of their data plans.
9. Buy a local SIM card
If you want to avoid the dangers of open networks while on the go, one of the best things to do is buy a local SIM card and use it to set up mobile hotspots. This is a particularly effective strategy when you need to send or receive sensitive data.
Most countries have tourist SIM packages that you can buy that will give you a pre-determined amount of data to use over a period of time. It’s usually much cheaper than using your home data plan abroad.
Some countries have more cybercrime than others. If you’re somewhere where you know there’s a higher chance of your credit card information being stolen – for example, when using an ATM or buying a plane ticket online – be sure to closely monitor your transactions for fraud.
If you see charges that you don’t recognize, report them to your credit card company immediately. The sooner you detect the fraud, the less likely you are to be liable for the charges. Your card company should also work to get you a new card as soon as possible, so you don’t run out of money.
By following the tips above, you can help protect yourself from cybercrime while on the go. Remember to be alert and take precautions when using public Wi-Fi, sharing sensitive information, and clicking links from unknown sources.
With a little vigilance and attention, you can enjoy your travels without having to worry about becoming a victim of cybercrime.
About the Author: Passionate about working on disruptive products, Anas Baig is currently Product Manager at SECURITI.ai. He holds a degree in Computer Science and obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Iqra University. His interests include information security, networking, privacy and data protection.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.