Blog Date: 7/17/2018
Author: Ray Coulombe
Before You Go
Booking the Trip
When planning your trip online, make sure the websites you are using to book are legitimate! It’s easy for scammers to fake a URL to make it appear like a well-known travel site in order to steal your personal data. Always double-check the URL and make sure the site is verified to be “HTTPS.” If possible, enable two-factor authentication whenever you make a password.
Prepping Your Devices
Make sure all the devices you plan on bringing with you, such as smartphones or tablets, are password protected. Next, be sure the software on them is up to date or the most recently downloaded version—these updates usually contain security updates, too. Also, be sure to back up all the important data on your devices, such as photos and contact information, before you travel. If your phone is lost or stolen, those files could be gone… forever! Insure that the data on your devices is encrypted…easy enough these days.
Not only should you set up a password to encrypt and lock your devices, but you should create strong, unique passwords for your different accounts. Consider a password manager such as LastPass or DashLane. In addition, enable location tracking (like Find My Phone) and install the wiping software so you can track down your phone or destroy the data on it in case it's ever stolen.
During the Trip
Public Wi-Fi, including hotel Wi-Fi, is tempting. It’s usually free and it helps to pass the time, right? While it may be appealing, public Wi-Fi networks leave you incredibly vulnerable to hackers because communication is in the clear and the networks are open access. Avoid checking your bank balance and other critical accounts while traveling, if possible.
I recommend VPN (Virtual Private Network) application software which will encrypt your communication directly from your device. I have tried several, and my current preference is Nord VPN. It also masks your current location and IP address. One account will work across multiple devices. (See https://nordvpn.com)
It’s a small price to stay secure. It’s usable over cellular and Wi-Fi networks. In general, making these transactions over your cellular data is safer that an unsecure Wi-Fi network, but it’s not foolproof.
Another convenient technology that is vulnerable to hackers is Bluetooth. If you’re not using your Bluetooth system, turn it off! Don’t allow your Apple computer or phone to be open for AirDrop and turn off all Bluetooth capability when it’s not in use.
While it’s easy to want to share your location online with friends to show off how cool your vacation is, don’t do it! According to Experian, only 32 percent of people avoid posting photos or status updates online while traveling, and only 20 percent disable geotagging on pictures. Sharing your agenda or location on social media allows potential thieves to keep track of where you are, making it easier for them to time a crime. Instead, wait to post about your trip until you get home.
When You’re Home
Monitoring bank and credit card accounts, as well as credit reports, is recommended in detecting suspicious activity when you’re back home from your trip. Yet 53 percent of respondents say monitoring financial transactions is challenging, and 81 percent trust banks and credit card companies to catch fraud for them, according to Experian’s survey. While these companies can help in seeing differences in your accounts, it’s really up to you to catch true fraud on your account when you’re home from your travels.
Antivirus + Passwords
Once you’re home, run a full anti-virus on any devices you used abroad. While you’re at it, go ahead and change any and all passwords that you used while traveling and make sure they’re secure with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.