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The holidays are right around the corner, which for many of us means traveling to celebrate with friends and family.
Whether you are just traveling for a weekend to see family or going on a long winter vacation, it is important to be cyber secure. Travelers are often easy prey for hackers as they are forced to rely on public computers and Wi-Fi and may need to leave their electronic devices unattended in hotel rooms. Follow these simple steps before and during your journey to help stay protected the next time you’re away from home.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Along with confirming your itinerary and packing, add these to-dos to your checklist:
• Minimize the number of electronic devices you bring on your travels to just those you can carry on your person. It is less likely for your devices to get stolen or compromised if you have it with you all the time.
• Update your mobile software before you go. Keep the operating system software and apps on your mobile device updated. This will improve your device’s ability to defend against malicious software also known as ‘malware’.
• Turn off Wi-Fi and remote connectivity when idle. Some devices will automatically seek and connect to available wireless networks. Bluetooth, for example, enables your device to connect wirelessly with other devices, such as headphones or automobile infotainment systems. Disable these features when you aren’t using them so that you only connect to trusted wireless and Bluetooth networks.
• Create strong passwords. Before you leave home, make sure you have strong passwords on all of your electronic devices. Passwords should be at least eight characters in length with both numbers, letters and special characters (@!$?). Create unique passwords for each device.
• Enable stronger authentication. Stronger authentication (also known as two-factor or multi-factor authentication) adds an extra layer of security beyond using a password to access your accounts. Most major e-mail, social media and financial platforms offer multi-factor authentication to their users. Be sure to ask your service provider if you can activate this feature before departing on your trip. To learn more, visit the White House’s new stronger authentication campaign at www.lockdownyourlogin.com.
WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
Be mindful of your Internet activity and how you can protect your privacy and your device:
• Keep your phone locked. Always lock your device when you are not using it. Even if you only step away for a few minutes, that is enough time for someone to steal or destroy your information. Use strong PINs and passwords for your accounts and lock screen.
• Think before you connect. Before you connect to any public wireless hotspot — such as those in an airport, hotel, train/bus station, or café — be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. Many fake networks have seemingly legitimate names.
• Protect your money and your information. Do not conduct sensitive activities, such as online shopping, banking, or sensitive work, using a public wireless network or a public computer.
• Delete your cookies and cache. If you use the Internet on a public computer (such as at a hotel or café) while you are traveling, be sure to delete your cookies in the web browser after you have finished. When you are on the Internet, a browser saves your information and this saved data is called a “cookie.” This data, which can include login credentials or other personal information, can then be accessed by other individuals that may use the computer.
• Don’t broadcast your location. Many social media platforms offer location-tagging as part of their features, which allows users to include their location when they post online. Avoid using these location features and do not announce on social media that you will be out of town. You could be telling stalkers exactly where to find you or telling a thief that you are not home.
To learn more about how you can defend against cyber threats, review the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect™ Campaign. The Campaign is a national awareness program that exists to increase the understanding of cyber threats and empower the American public to be safer and more secure online.