Essential cybersecurity tips for your next trip

David Banks's picture
Authored by David Banks
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 11:40am

Vacation season is here, and millions of people are hopping on planes to travel to various destinations. While most travellers focus on their physical safety when travelling, experts suggest that it is equally important to follow digital safety best practices.  

Most travellers are unaware of cyber risks, making an easy target for hackers. Personal data stored on our devices is often more valuable than the contents of our wallets – it’s the gateway to all our accounts, online banking, and more. Digital safety is especially important for business travellers who carry their company’s sensitive data. 

Here are eight tips that will help you protect your data while on the road.

1. Lock all devices

All smartphones, tablets, and computers have a screen lock feature, which allows you to lock your device with a pattern, pin, face recognition, or fingerprint. Make sure to enable screen lock on all your devices before you travel and ideally use a different pin or pattern on each. In case any of your devices gets stolen or lost, you don’t want unauthorised parties to access the contents of your folders. 

2. Set strong passwords

A strong password is essential to protect your accounts. Use unique passwords for different websites and apps. Take some time to come up with a hard to guess password or simply use an online password generator to generate a strong password for you.

3. Be careful while connecting to a public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi at airports, cafes, and hotels is incredibly tempting when you’re travelling. After all, roaming charges can break the bank. Using free Wi-Fi is convenient, but it makes your device vulnerable to security breaches. 

Public Wi-Fi networks are often unencrypted and should generally be avoided completely. If for some reason you need to use free hotspots, you should remember to use a VPN as you're surfing on public Wi-Fi. VPNs encrypts your internet traffic and will protect you from man-in-the-middle attacks and other cyber threats.

4. Disable Wi-Fi auto-connect

By default, most devices will automatically try connecting to Wi-Fi networks available in the vicinity, for your daily convenience. This is great when you are at your home, and your device automatically connects to the home Wi-Fi but when in public, disable the auto-connect setting so that you will have to connect manually to any network if you need to. This will avoid connecting to unwanted free networks.

5. Disable Bluetooth connectivity

Like Wi-Fi, even Bluetooth connectivity, if left on, can cause a security threat as other nearby devices can connect to and hack into your device. Always keep your Bluetooth disabled while you are travelling.

6. Remove sensitive data

You may take many precautions against cybersecurity threats, but still, there are chances of your device getting lost or hacked. That’s why it’s important to remove all sensitive data, such as passport scans or personal photos, from the device before travelling. This way, no personal information can be stolen from your device.

7. Avoid location sharing on social media

When you are travelling and constantly updating your social media, you are publicly sharing your location information. This might signal to criminals that you are not home and increase the chances of theft. Limit sharing on public platforms while away and try sharing photos once you’re back home, instead.

8. Install anti-virus protection

This is a piece of advice which most people are already aware of. Antivirus software from a trusted brand will make sure that your device is up to date and warn you about any malicious activity on your device. This isn’t a tip only for laptops, install an antivirus onto your phone and tablet as well.

9. Update the operating system 

Software updates are a way for manufacturers to patch security vulnerabilities once the device is on the market. If you haven’t installed all the updates yet, do it before the trip.

10. Learn about local cybersecurity laws

It’s always a good idea to learn more about the country you’re visiting. Other than researching about the sights, weather, and food learn also about their cybersecurity laws, to be aware what to expect.

The chances of cyber theft reduce exponentially if a traveller is vigilant all the time. Technology has made our lives simpler, but it has also opened the doors to many new risks. In the past, we used to worry most about muggers and pickpockets, but in today's world, protecting your data is of equal importance.