While you may be looking for rest and relaxation, hackers can turn any vacation into a nightmare if you are not careful. Just because you have left work behind does not mean that you can relax on your cybersecurity best practices. Traveling also opens you up to new vulnerabilities. By taking the following simple precautions, you can secure your devices and protect your personal and online data throughout your trip.
Before you depart:
- Clean your device – Apps of all kinds will often collect personal data and track your location. Some apps also keep a local copy of sensitive data on your device. Unless you need that app, why create another copy of personal data to secure? Delete any unnecessary or rarely used apps. For apps that you do use, go in to Settings and select which data you will allow that app to collect. You should also remove any unnecessary or sensitive data from your device. If you need to access these data during the trip, either encrypt it on your device or store it on a secure cloud storage service. Finally, clear your browser cache files.
- Secure your accounts – This is a basic step towards securing your online data but it bears repeating: Make sure you use strong, unique passwords on all your accounts and back them up with 2FA where possible.
- Prepare for the worst – Be sure to turn on the “Find My Device” and “Remote Wiping” functions on your device. (Most Androids and iPhones come with these functions built into the phone.) This way you can track down your phone if it is lost or destroy the data on it if it is stolen. Back up any data that you want to keep either on to an external hard drive or onto a secure cloud storage service so that if the worst should come to pass, you still have all your photos and business documents.
While on the go:
- Always use a VPN – Whether you are using airport WiFi or connecting to the hotel hotspot, a VPN will not only keep your data and browsing history secure, but also let you keep up with your favorite TV shows from home by bypassing geo-restrictions. VPNs guard your connection by encrypting all your online traffic, making it safe from intruders, regardless of what WiFi hotspot you connect to.
- Monitor your connections – Public WiFi, while convenient, is notoriously insecure, especially in airport and hotel lounges. You should disable the automatic WiFi connection feature on your device and only connect to WiFi networks you have verified to be genuine. Unless you are currently using them, your Bluetooth and file-sharing services (such as AirDrop) should always be turned off as well.
- Watch your device – Carrying your device everywhere can be a pain, but if you are in a public space you should not leave your device unattended. Even if it means getting some odd looks from the wait staff as you take your laptop into the café bathroom, it is better than having your device tampered with or stolen.
- Limit social media use – Sometimes it is not necessary to hack a person’s device to know exactly where they have been, where they are currently, and where they plan to be because they share all those details on social media. By sharing too much information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you give burglars a timeframe of how long your home or apartment will be empty and unattended. Also, never post shots of your boarding pass with details visible.
- Treat public computers like public bathrooms – Only use them when you must, and only for what you have to. Many hotels and hostels offer a public computer for their guests and while they can be lifesavers in an emergency, do not use them more than you have to. It is highly unlikely that they have been secured, so they are likely full of malware. If you have your own device, avoid using a public computer completely. If you need to use a public computer, only use it for what you absolutely must. Do not access any private or sensitive accounts and delete any personal data, logins, and your browsing history on the computer once you are done.
When you return:
- Watch your money – Once you return home from your trip, you should monitor your bank and credit card accounts. If you used a credit card while traveling, check your monthly statements for any discrepancies for at least one year after you return.
- Beware of freebies – Never use USB drives or software received as gifts or promotional items on your trip. Unless you bought it from a trusted outlet (and even then, you should buy them from the store and not online) it is impossible to vouch for the security of such items.
- Clean your device again – If you downloaded any apps specifically for this trip that you no longer need, go ahead and delete them and their associated data. Delete apps you do not need. If you downloaded any apps specifically for your trip and no longer need them, be sure to delete those apps and the associated data.
Even though a vacation is supposed to be relaxing, traveling can be stressful. Fortunately, these simple tips will go a long way towards keeping your devices and personal data safe as you explore new lands, have new adventures, or just take some time to get away from it all.
The Proton VPN Team
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