Most of us travel with laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Without the proper safeguards, we can be easy targets for criminals. It's not just the devices they're after; criminals seek the data inside, which can be just as valuable and vulnerable.
The next time you put your toiletries in a zipped plastic bag and choose your easy-to-slip-on shoes, be sure that you're traveling with technology safely and doing all you can to keep your personal, sensitive information secure.
Steer Clear of Free Wi-Fi
Whether you're in an airport, a train station, a café, or a hotel, avoid using the free Wi-Fi at all costs. Hackers can create their own hotspots at these locations and gain access to any unprotected device that logs on.
When you're on a public network, your personal data—including your user IDs, passwords, and account information—is available for anyone to see and steal. Also, your computer is susceptible to a variety of viruses or spyware. What's even more disturbing is that some criminals may know how to gain access to your computer even after you've left the hotspot.
If you need Internet access, follow these tips for staying secure online while traveling:
- Disable your wireless adapter. Your computer may be set to connect to any available Wi-Fi network. In your wireless networking settings, be sure to disable the computer's ability to automatically find and join wireless networks.
- Make sure your antivirus, spyware protection, encryption software, and firewall are all up to date.
- Move files containing sensitive information from your hard drive to an encrypted flash drive or removable media device, and then delete them from your computer so there's no possible way that they will be stolen. Leave the device and your sensitive files safe at home. After you return, run a full virus scan and put the files back on your computer.
Be Smart About Your Smartphone
As smartphones have become ubiquitous, so has smartphone hacking. Take these precautions to protect your smartphone, whether you're in your neighborhood or on a business trip:
- Password-protect your phone at all times with a strong password of multiple random numbers.
- Enable encryption on your phone.
- Delete sensitive documents and files from your smartphone.
- Update all apps regularly.
- Turn on your phone's lockout or reset setting. If a hacker attempts the incorrect password too many times, this function locks out the user or reverts the phone back to the factory setting, therefore protecting your personal information.
- Set up a phone locator application, if available. Set up a free application—for example, Lookout Mobile Security—that lets you locate your phone from any computer and allows you to reset your phone to factory mode if it's lost or stolen.
- Enable remote wiping. Many smartphones can be configured to allow you to remotely wipe the data in case your device is lost or stolen.
- Turn off automatic logins for websites and apps. If you have saved your credentials for automatic logins, turn these off while you are traveling.
Never Leave Your Devices Unattended
It can be tempting to ask a stranger to watch your things "just for a minute" while you step away to the restroom, grab a cup of coffee, or stretch your legs on the plane. You should keep everything, including all of your devices, with you at all times. Never ask a stranger to keep an eye on your belongings; it's not worth the risk. The only person who can keep your information and devices safe is you!
Keep an Eye Out at the Airport
As you rush in and out of the airport, keep an eye on your devices at all times. Criminals target places like airports, where busy, distracted people let their guard down. When you're going through security checks and baggage claim, even sitting on the plane or in a café, criminals are waiting for you to slip up. Know where your things are at all times, and watch out for anyone who might peek over your shoulder as you work.
We've all become so dependent on our technology devices and we can't imagine living without them. The good news is that we don't have to! By taking a few precautions when traveling with technology, we can enjoy our devices and our privacy, even while away from home.
Be sure to share these tips with your clients, as well as my tips to protect yourself from online crime and identity theft. Small precautionary measures aren't difficult—and they add up to serious prevention.
Do you take any additional measures to protect your devices and data while traveling? Share below.