Whether you are traveling for the holidays, summer break, or for business, there are steps you can take to make sure that your devices are travel-ready. Whether you realize it or not, you can face new dangers while you’re on the road and away from your secure home network. Not only are devices more likely to be lost or stolen, you also run a greater risk of connecting to an unsecured network, or leaking your location and private information to potential crooks or scammers. That’s why it’s important to take the following precautions before you travel with your technology.
Know Your Networks—If you plan to stay connected while you’re away, be very careful about which networks you use, and avoid free Wi-Fi, like those offered in many airports, cafes and hotels, which may or may not be secure. It’s very easy for a hacker to access the private information stored on your device over an unsecured network. They simply use a piece of software to scan the network and look for any services you may have left open. Or, they can setup their own free Wi-Fi network in a public place, giving them access to any device that connects with it. That’s why you should make sure that you only use password-protected networks, at the least.
If you are on your mobile device consider turning off Wi-Fi all together and connecting through your network provider. They use encryption to scramble your data so third parties cannot read it.
Consider investing in a virtual private network (VPN), which is a piece of software that allows you to connect to a secure network over the Internet.
Turn Off Location Information—Many apps and online services track your location in order to map or tag you to certain spots, but unless you need navigation help while on the road you should turn this option off.
Sharing your location while you’re away can be dangerous since it alerts potential thieves when your home is empty. You should also avoid posting social media updates and photos while on vacation, for the same reason. Wait until you return home to tell people about your trip.
It’s also a smart idea to check to see if services you use access your location even though they don’t need this information to work properly. If so, turn off the location sharing option if you can, or consider deleting nosy apps to protect your privacy.
Use Mobile Security—Locking your devices with a PIN code so strangers cannot access your data is a great first step, but you should also consider comprehensive mobile security. This can help safeguard you from malware, risky links sent in email or via text, and even provide anti-theft protection. For instance, McAfee Mobile Security allows you to track a lost or stolen device, and even sound an alarm and take a picture of the culprit. It also allows you to lock down your sensitive apps, for banking or shopping, for instance, so they cannot be accessed even if your device falls into the wrong hands.
Don’t Leave Your Devices Unattended—Considering that we now carry our whole lives on our devices, including identity information, contacts, banking logins, and more, it’s essential that you do not leave your devices unattended in public. Make sure to keep them tucked away, with both screen locks and mobile security activated. Also, avoid loaning your devices to strangers to make a phone call or look something up, for instance, since this could be a scam.
Travel Data Light—Consider using a pared down phone while on the road that only has the apps you need, such as mapping, and allows you to make calls. That way, you’re not putting all of your critical data at risk if your device is lost or stolen. If you are traveling abroad, picking up a cheap phone to use while out of the country also gives you the advantage of being able to call and text at local rates.
Backup All Your Data—Do this before you go, just in case you lose your device. This way you still have all your data, no matter what happens.