I am so happy to see our communities and our country overall returning to some semblance of what we once knew as normal. Doesn’t it feel like we’ve all been holding our breath for ages? Now we can see each other smile. Now we can hug our loved ones. Now we can go back to in-person learning. And—now we can travel. But guess what? Going on vacation no longer means “don’t think about certain responsibilities.” You must stay cyber vigilant when you travel these days; airports and public places can be easy pickings for hackers and cyber thieves. They are our modern pickpockets. Here are some key tips to stay cyber safe when traveling and on vacation.
Key Tip #1: Public Wi-Fi Is Just That. Nothing Is Private.
Hackers can easily access your devices when you are connected to a public network. This will be true no matter where you are. Being in the National Cathedral won’t protect your data if their wi-fi connection for you is public. Public wi-fi in a visitors’ center in the Badlands of the Dakotas isn’t safe if a hacker sitting in a car outside waiting to see who will connect inside. Change your data plan if you need to. Do not hope for lots of free public wi-fi to help save you money unless you have none to lose.
Key Tip #2: Know Where Your Devices Are. Physical Theft Of Phones, Tablets, And Laptops Happens Often
You might move to join the crowd standing at the rail of the Grand Canyon, and you just set your phone on the hood of your rental car for a moment so you can use both hands on your camera. You just saw the gate change on your phone, and although it’s a hike, you must hit the bathroom first—but you can still make the flight. Once you are in the check-in line, you reach for your phone . . . We have all been in those situations. One of your kids walks into a public restroom, still holding the tablet. I urge you to strategize possible scenarios if you must take tablets and laptops. Please be paranoid. If you are holding an open tablet or laptop, or even your phone, someone is watching to see if you will put it down and look away.
Key Tip #3: Did You Know There Are Fake Public Charging Stations? Take Your Own Power Bank
Yes, airports have been remodeling to add more outlets. And yes, we have all had those travel moments when our phones were almost out of juice, or work required us to open our laptops between flights to create a needed document. BUT—just like gas pump skimming, if you connect to a fake charging station, your data can be breached before you realize something is odd about your outlet. Travel with your own power bank. Also, consider purchasing a special USB add-on that blocks data access when plugging into a power outlet. Always use your own cables.
Key Tip #4: Be Familiar With How To Use Your Bluetooth—Then Teach Your Kids
Leaving your Bluetooth connection on and discoverable while you are traveling can also put your cybersecurity at risk. As easily as if you connected to public wi-fi, hackers can also transfer malware to your devices via Bluetooth. And then there is the creep factor. Bad actors can track you silently if you leave your Bluetooth device turned on. Public network hacking and Bluetooth jacking are both quite common. Know this and plan accordingly.
Being cyber vigilant is just another aspect of how you already carefully shepherd and watch over your nearest and dearest. Don’t let your brains fall out when the plane lifts off the runway. Know that even when you have safely reached your destination, there are still security precautions that need to be practiced. And—don’t forget to have a great time!
Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium-sized businesses for 19 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.