Although summer technically does not start until the June solstice, the Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer vacation season for many of us.
While gearing up for travel, here are some cybersecurity best practices and tips to keep you and your data secure on the road.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Yes, we know this tip is one that readers have heard for years, yet it’s one that is still important to remember when on the road. With the growth of internet providers placing free wi-fi connection points in cities, as well as the airlines and transit providers offering in-ride connectivity, threat actors will continue to use fraudulent wi-fi networks to connect to devices with malicious intent.
But what if you need network connectivity?
If you absolutely need an internet connection, be on the lookout for some common warning signs for malicious networks. These include connections that require no credentials (the adage of nothing is free rings true here) or networks that are misspelled/mimic legitimate networks from airports or mobile carriers.
If you are still unsure or want to err on the side of caution, you can purchase mobile hotspots from authorized internet providers that may offer pay-as-needed plans ideal for a short trip.
Be Wary of Deals
With gas prices reaching record highs and the price of everything in general greater than years’ past, many Americans are understandably looking for the best vacation deals out there. When researching vacation packages or planning a trip, don’t let an unbelievable price or deal hook you into visiting a malicious website or fraudulent situation.
Be sure to verify that you are on legitimate websites when booking trips (always verify the URL), avoid clicking on advertisements or social media links as they may take you to fraudulent websites and do not respond to unsolicited phone calls or emails offering deals too good to be true... because chances are they are.
Disable Auto Connect
Many smart devices offer the option to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks when in range. While this feature is useful when enabled to secure networks that you trust such as your home or work connection, we recommend disabling any auto-connect options on the go.
Data and App Permissions
I tend to only download apps as needed, and when traveling, I know that I will need to download several for my trips.
From boarding flights to checking into hotel rooms, Apple’s 2009 trademarked phrase “there’s an app for that” still rings true in 2022. Add on the many large theme parks requiring visitors to have an app to make ride reservations and you can see why managing app permissions and your data is so important while on the road.
Although app stores do a diligent job of removing fraudulent apps, there are still some that can slip through the cracks. When downloading apps for vacation, be sure to verify you are downloading official apps and granting the proper permissions when setting up your account. Details to verify before downloading an app are the developer’s name, website and number of downloads and reviews.
Evade Physical Threats
Physical threats are also a top concern for your data privacy and security when on the go. If traveling with devices, we strongly recommend (and most companies require) you to always carry smart devices and computers with you. If flying, be sure to have your devices in your carry-on bag. If driving, be sure to take them with you—even if just stopping to use a restroom or grabbing a bite to eat.
For many criminals, a smash-and-grab is a lot faster and less complex than hacking, but just as lucrative when they sell devices.
Also, remember "stranger danger"? Everybody with a camera phone can take a photo of others’ screens in seconds, so be sure to double-check your surroundings when viewing or entering personal information or passwords in public spaces. You also can find privacy protector screens online and some phones have them built in for convenience.
Before packing your smart devices, ask yourself if you really need to bring your work laptop, personal laptop, work phone, personal phone and tablets.
Recently, I have been asking myself this question when packing. Based on what I plan on doing during the trip is how I choose which devices to take, and which to leave in a secure location at home or the office.
Remember that every device you take is another entry point for threat actors to steal your data, so pack accordingly.
Update Your Software
Before leaving for vacation, check all your devices for any important updates or patches that need installed. Most smart devices have options to automatically download updates when connected to Wi-Fi or send notifications as a reminder to manually download the update. Also, restarting computers should prompt updates. These updates and patches are extremely important in protecting your devices and should never be ignored.
Use Credit Cards
While not a “cybersecurity” tip in the pure sense, using credit cards over debit cards will add another layer of security to your trip. Using credit cards doesn’t just help you avoid the large holds hotels place on you for deposits, they offer an array of features that can make combatting fraud much easier.
In general, disputing fraud on a credit card is a seamless process and, in my personal experience, credit card companies can identify fraudulent charges on an account before they show up on a statement.
Additionally, using a credit card offers convenient features, including the ability to lock your card for trips, automatic currency exchanges and trip insurance in most instances.
About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity
The Schneider Downs cybersecurity practice consists of experts offering a comprehensive set of information technology security services, including penetration testing, intrusion prevention/detection review, ransomware security, vulnerability assessments and a robust digital forensics and incident response team. In addition, our Digital Forensics and Incident Response teams are available 24x7x365 at 1-800-993-8937 if you suspect or are experiencing a network incident of any kind.
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The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].
Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.