Travelling means seeking out new experiences, but it also can invite new risks. Places such as airports are hotbeds for theft, according to analysts, and modern thieves are not just after fancy laptops or phones – they are interested in the data that can be taken from them.
A recent ZDNet feature outlined some of the security threats facing travelers and offered tips for securing devices – both physically and electronically. By taking steps to ensure data security, travelers can avoid costly identity theft even if they are robbed or lose a device while traveling.
Before the trip
Travel security begins before departure, when travellers must decide what devices to bring and plan how to protect them. ZDNet recommended leaving unneeded devices at home, advice backed up by a University of Michigan travel guide. The UM guide also suggested that professionals use a loaner device if a their organization’s IT department offers such programs.
Travelers should take inventory of and back up all the critical data on their devices, either using a physical backup or a cloud storage service. Part of data protection includes physically protecting devices as well, particularly as travel can expose electronics to rougher conditions than normal. ZDNet recommended using protective casing to prevent damage, as well as investing in slash-proof carrying cases to prevent theft.
The University of Michigan recommended patching all software, running a full malware scan and installing a firewall before departure, as well as disabling Bluetooth, any automatic file or printer sharing and any automatic Wi-Fi connection settings. The university also advised travellers to use virtual private network (VPN) software that encrypts network communications.
ZDNet advised both laptop and mobile users to lock their devices with secure, alphanumeric passwords. For laptops, setting a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) password can make it harder to circumvent Windows login, while for mobile devices, setting a SIM card PIN code can prevent thieves from using mobile minutes on another phone.
Encryption is another essential step – and one well worth the time it takes to employ. Certain laptop users can take advantage of features such as Bitlocker to encrypt their hard drive, making the data on the device unusable to thieves. By storing files in the cloud instead of on the device itself, users can prevent someone with device access from gaining entry to their data. Mobile users can use apps that put private data in hidden folders, and they may also want to register for a phone tracking service such as Find My iPhone so they can pinpoint a lost device and remotely clear it, ZDNet said.
On the road
Once travellers have headed out on the road, they need to keep their eyes open to threats of all types. Tourist destinations are often filled with experienced scammers, while using devices in public spaces can increase the possibility of a data breach.
Public Wi-Fi networks are a common weak point, and travellers should assume that no network is secure. Using encrypted networks and authenticated networks hosted by businesses such as cafes are good precautions, but users may also want to use a firewall and a VPN, ZDNet noted. When on a public network, even when using a VPN, it is best not to access any sensitive data such as bank accounts or make online purchases.
Nevertheless, travellers may find themselves in a situation where there is no choice but to use public utilities. ZDNet advised users to leave no trace,making sure to log out of all accounts, clear browser histories and cookies and avoid entering any private bank or credit card information. The site also advised users to avoid typing passwords to protect against keyloggers. One workaround is using a password manager service.
When travellers return from their trips, they should change their passwords and scan for malware, the UM guide said.
Other scams and tricks
Even if they employ the full range of device protection strategies, travellers face unique risks that go beyond typical security practices. Scammers and con artists in tourist destinations are skilled in using social engineering to exploit travellers’ unfamiliarity with their surroundings and gain access to devices or data.
ZDNet warned of several con artist scams that target devices or seek to extract travellers’ private information. In general, visitors should make an effort to keep an eye on their devices and avoid sharing financial information over the phone.
Travellers can also take steps to reduce the chance of device theft by scuffing labels on bags or covering devices with stickers to make them look less desirable. Using locks for bags, even ones that are easily broken, offers a deterrent to thieves, ZDNet said. Physical protection can offer an important first step for data protection, and both are vital for travelers in a digital age.
Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro