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Technology: Risky Business

How to protect yourself against the cyber-risks that come with travel

By Jeff Chandler

Looking forward to that summer vacation? For a whopping 82% of us, we’ll be taking our work right along with us. Nearly 90% of those surveyed in the MyPerfectResume study admitted to checking emails and messages while on vacation. In addition, we’ll be researching entertainment activities, purchasing tickets online, and checking our bank accounts online, all while in unfamiliar and most likely unsecure locations.

With this in mind, it’s essential to maintain strong cybersecurity best practices when you travel. Whether you’re using a public Wi-Fi network in the lobby or accessing financial information from your hotel room, you can expose your vital information to hackers, malware and other cyber-risks. And hackers realize people tend to let their guard down while on vacation, making travelers attractive targets for cybercriminals.

However, there are things you can do to minimize your risk.

Back up your data before you leave
Have multiple data backups either via the cloud or an external hard drive. This allows immediate access to your important information, even if your devices have been lost or stolen.

Disable Wi-Fi auto-connect and Bluetooth
Auto-connecting to Wi-Fi opens you up to unsecure networks. Before you take your trip, go into your settings and disable the auto-connect function. You can still connect to Wi-Fi networks, but those of your own choosing and those you know are secure.

Criminals can also connect to your phone or iPad through your Bluetooth connection, so make sure you also disable this feature.

Avoid accessing public Wi-Fi
Avoid using public Wi-Fi, as those connections are not secure. Criminals troll open networks looking for access points to information. Use the hotspot on your phone, or if you do need to use a hotel or restaurant network, make sure you’re using a virtual private network (VPN).

VPNs encrypt your internet connection which secures your data. Set up a VPN on your device before you leave on vacation so it’s readily accessible.

Turn on two-factor authentication 
This adds additional security when you’re logging into your accounts, especially those that contain financial information such as bank routing numbers or credit card numbers.

Update security on devices
Update all your devices to ensure you have the latest security patches before you leave. Outdated software leaves you vulnerable to cybercriminals.

Secure your devices
If your cell phone, iPad or computer is stolen, all your sensitive information goes with it. Keep devices with you or secured in your hotel room. Don’t take your device out in unfamiliar or unsecure public spaces. Have screen locks that require a unique password or better yet, biometric authentication such as your thumbprint. That way, if your device is stolen, the thief won’t be able to access your information.

Limit social media posts
We know you love to post those fabulous vacation shots, but better wait until you’re home. Criminals troll social media and by posting your photos, you’re letting criminals know you’re not at home, leaving these places vulnerable to break-ins.

Watch for phishing 
Vacationers are great targets for phishing emails. Make sure that email from your hotel or airline is legitimate. Never click on any links or download unfamiliar attachments.

The most important thing is to remain vigilant and not let your guard down, even on vacation.

Jeff Chandler is CEO of Z-JAK Technologies and author of Hacked! What You Must Know Now to Protect Your Business Financials, Customer Data, and Reputation from Cybercriminals. Z-JAK Technologies provides IT and cybersecurity services for businesses and was named Best Cyber Security Training & Consulting Firm 2022 – Kentucky by Wealth and Finance Magazine and received the UpCity Best of Kentucky Award.  https://zjak.net/