It’s officially summer, which means many are looking to travel this season – perhaps to make up for a mostly sedentary year marked by stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Whether it’s a family road trip, a scenic cruise or an overseas flight, 2 in 3 Americans (68%) say they plan to travel for leisure this summer, according to McAfee’s who recently released their “2021 Consumer Safety Spirit: Travel Edition. “
The problem is, while two-thirds of respondents say they are connected to more devices and are more digitally active Since the start of the pandemic, only just over half have implemented additional levels of security protection.
As an example of this gap between sentiment and behavior of travelers, the report found that 44% of respondents admit to connecting to public WiFi, although 62% agree that WiFi networks are vulnerable to cyberthreats.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, 47% of those surveyed admit that they don’t take the same safety precautions online while on vacation as they do at home.
“A checklist shouldn’t just be vaccination cards, COVID-conscious plans, and proof of a negative test – travelers need to understand that because their online activity and device usage has increased, potential cyber risks too “, explains Judith Bitterli, senior vice president of McAfee Consumer Marketing.
“To avoid endangering personal information, such as credit cards, bank details and passwords, think of your online data as your health or that of your family, and you will be more careful and intentional to keep information out of the hands of hackers, ”adds Bitterli.
Staying safe online while traveling doesn’t require a computer science degree.
Follow these simple tips to protect your devices and data.
Resist using free hotspots
While airports and hotels offer free Wi-Fi, you put your information at risk every time you use these public “hotspots”. Malicious types can more easily access your data compared to a private network.
You might think you are joining a legitimate network, like “Seattle Airport WiFi” when in fact it is a fake (“rogue”) network set up by someone nearby trying to access your informations.
Additionally, those who provide free Wi-Fi can (and often do) collect and sell data about your browsing habits.
Another misconception is that a public WiFi hotspot is safe if there is a required password, often given by the establishment. This is not much more secure than not having a password if it is freely given to everyone indiscriminately.
In other words, if you can, avoid public WiFi altogether, don’t use it.
Instead, when using your laptop on the go, think about your smartphone’s cellular connection by creating a personal hotspot. Be aware that this counts towards your mobile phone’s data plan and look for roaming rates outside of the United States.
If you absolutely must use free public WiFi, at least run a VPN (virtual private network) to browse anonymously. The “Private” or “Incognito” mode of a browser is not the same thing, because it only erases your history and your cookies when you close the browsing session; what you do online can still be seen by your service provider, government, advertisers, and malicious guys.
And once you’re in a WiFi hotspot, avoid entering any personal information, such as passwords and usernames. And of course, never do any financial transactions, such as paying bills, shopping online, day trading, or filing taxes.
Lock your devices
In 2013, Consumer Reports found up to 39% of Americans don’t lock their devices.
Ouch. Hopefully these numbers have improved over the next 8 years.
If you don’t lock your smartphone with a 4- or 6-digit PIN, password, pattern, or biometric login (like a fingerprint or face scan), anyone who finds your missing phone can access your information.
The same advice could be applied to your laptop or tablet: require a password to use all your technologies. This way, in case of loss or theft, no one will be able to access your private information.
Since your phone will be locked, make sure you keep a digital scan of important documents – like your passport and driver’s license – just in case your paper documents get lost. Having a digital copy with you might help before getting replacement documentation. Apple’s next iOS 15 update will also allow users to add their driver’s license or personal ID to their smartphone.
While you’re at it, make sure to link a credit or debit card to your phone, using a free service like Apple Pay or Google Pay, in case you lose your wallet.
One final tip over the phone: if you haven’t already done so, be sure to configure your device’s “Find my phone” feature, so you can locate it on a map, if necessary. If it is stolen, never try to retrieve it yourself. Instead, work with local authorities, just to err on the side of caution.
You may also consider picking up these trendy trackers (from $ 25) to help locate missing items, such as a purse, keys or luggage. In the same way Tile brand solutions, Apple recently launched AirTags, more Samsung has its SmartThings trackers.
► Are you the forgetful type? Here are 5 ways technology can help you find your phone, keys, parked car, or pet.
► From iPhone OS 1 to iOS 15: A history of the system that powers your Apple smartphone
Key Laptop Tips for Travelers
Some other recommendations:
► Install and update your cybersecurity software before your departure. Install good cybersecurity software on your laptop and make sure it is up to date to protect you from the latest threats. Most must be renewed every year.
► Avoid using public computers. It is not ideal to use a common / public PC in a hotel business center or airport lounge, as a cyber crook could secretly install software to capture your typed words (including Passwords). But if you do, at least remember to log out of your online activity (like a webmail service or social media account) before you go and restart the machine.
► Do not print sensitive data in hotel business centers. Avoid using public printers in a hotel business center, especially if they are sensitive financial or business documents, as these could also be hacked. And what about that print job that you think didn’t work? He might spit out those papers after you leave.
► Dissuade prying eyes by putting a privacy shield on your laptop. Starting at $ 15, these screens filters make sure nosy noses don’t see anything they shouldn’t. Unless they’re directly in front of your screen, which is where you are, it will appear black, like the screen is turned off. You’ll want to buy one depending on your laptop screen size, say 11, 13, 15, or 17 inches.
► Back up your phone data before leaving home. It is extremely important to back up important files on your phone like irreplaceable photos, videos, contacts, text chats etc. in case of device loss, theft or damage. Whether you’re using the cloud or connecting it to your home computer to back up files via USB or WiFi / AirDrop, do something to protect your precious files – before it’s too late.
► Decide how you want to access important data remotely. Some travelers choose not to have important files with them on the road. Instead, they store everything in the cloud, like OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox, and virtually access what they need. Or you can use “remote desktop” software, such as Splash, to connect to another computer, perhaps at home, and use it on your laptop when you are away, as if you were sitting at your home computer.
Avoid sharing too much on social media
One more thing to avoid in the age of social media: over-sharing.
While it can be tempting to post vacation photos in the moment, keep in mind that these posts also broadcast that your home is vacant at the time (talk about an occasion for the “Palm of the face “).
Yes, there are countless stories of travelers returning to a cleaned house, because they posted vacation photos on Facebook or Instagram and weren’t sure who all of their “friends” online were.
Instead, if you want to #Travel, just wait until you get home. It can wait.