When it comes to Internet security, odds are we all know someone who has had their identity compromised. A credit card number or password got into the wrong hands and bad results ensued. We take precautions, but it seems to be a losing battle as criminals stay a step ahead of technology designed to protect us. Even with the best practices in place, shopping at a local store and paying with a credit card can compromise our account if the store itself is hacked. And that’s at home, shopping or paying bills online. The potential for identity theft and the resulting mayhem that it can cause is magnified when we travel, adding unknown variables to the equation. The good news: Help is on the way.
PrivateGiant is a technology firm in the making that will be dedicated to restoring privacy to online communications for the individual and enterprises. We tap the resources of security expert Shaun Murphy, PrivateGiant CEO right now for one big reason: at least his site is obviously safe as there is nothing to do there yet. Still, Murphy offers some good tips before during and after travel.
Packing, printing airline tickets and organizing maps are not the only to-do list items that need to be tended to before a vacation begins. Check all devices staying at home or going on the trip for software updates. Not running system updates is like putting out the welcome mat for cybercriminals. Operating system security holes that could have easily been patched with a quick click can leave you vulnerable to hacks.
Backing up is always important, but before you travel it is essential. Removing unnecessary sensitive data from your devices going on the trip including photos, videos, financial documents and stored passwords can save you from heartache and headaches down the road if your devices are breached, stolen or misplaced.
Wipe Your History.
Clear your browser cache files and remove saved passwords. If you accidentally connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi network while travelling do not make it effortless for criminals to steal your private information such as bank access, work emails or photos.
Create temporary passwords for sites you plan on accessing while travelling. It is estimated that 60% of people use the same password, or a variation of one, for every account. If you get hacked while traveling, having a temporary “throwaway” password for email or social media will prevent a headache of worry over if your home accounts were compromised.
Avoid logging onto free Wi-Fi networks that are unsecure. If you do not have to ask a store or restaurant owner or employee for a password it isn’t worth saving a few dollars to check your email for free. It could end up costing you a lot more in the long run if a hacker has set up a benign looking “free” network that he or she is using to read everything on your computer.
Make sure you are using a secured connection to websites when available. A simple “s” (https:// instead of http:// in your web browser’s URL bar) will protect you from most threats local and remote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a utility that will automatically use a secure connection for you. Click here to learn more.
Enable two-factor authentication on your important web services (email, social media, etc.) so in the event that someone does gain access to your passwords they need a second code to get in. Click here for guidelines for setting up two-factor authentication.
For additional security when using a Wi-Fi network at a hotel or airport, consider using a VPN on your laptop. A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a third-party server, and all your Internet traffic is routed through that server. Snoopers on the network will only see encrypted data.
While it is tempting to post about a vacation on social media or keep a blog about your adventures to stay in touch with family and friends, resist the urge. Every tidbit of information you publicly share online is a breadcrumb criminals can use to piece together a snapshot of your life that can lead to them to cracking your passwords and hacking your digital accounts. This is why I stopped using FourSquare.
Switch off the wireless connection on your phone, tablet and laptop when they are not in use. By keeping the connection off you are taking another step in protecting your digital identity, by preventing an opportunity for criminals to automatically connect to your device on an open network without you ever knowing what happened.
After Returning Home
Running a security sweep when you get home is a wise precaution. Check your computer and other devices for spyware, malware, and viruses. One indication that malware could be looking is an increase in memory use or data use that is otherwise inexplicable.
It Can Happen To You, Without Leaving Home
It happened to me last December at a local Target store. Shopping for holiday gifts a purchase was made for less than $10 but it was done during a period of time later determined to be when hackers had compromised the entire Target chain’s computer system, stealing card numbers of all who had shopped there. I had no idea it had happened as no inappropriate charges were made to my card. Still, the card company canceled that card and replaced it, in abundance of caution. Nice move but really inconvenient as that was a card I used to make regularly scheduled payments to approved parties.
Here is a good video with more on this important topic: