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Don’t Let Hackers Spoil Your Vacation

Summer is the perfect time for relaxation, outdoor fun and vacation travel, but it can also be the perfect distraction hackers need to sneak a peek into your device.

When you hit the road for some vacay this summer, there’s no doubt you’ll be taking advantage of the Web. However, before taking off, online security company AVG Technologies encourages you to keep a few things in mind to protect your privacy/security online – a few simple tips that will allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy your time away, worry-free!

  • Avoid the nosey neighbor – Before booking travel online, it’s always important to make sure the site is reputable and secure by checking for URLs that begin with “HTTPS.”
  • Prep your travel gear – If you’ve been putting off that software or app update on your phone, add the task to your vacation checklist – updates often include important security fixes!
  • Don’t leave the front door unlocked – you likely wouldn’t want potential burglars to know you’re hundreds of miles away from home, right? Every Instagram or Facebook image you post may include your exact location through the default ‘geotagging’ data attached to each pic – make sure to turn that off.
  • Stay away from strangers – be wary of free Wi-Fi on your trip. Scammers often set up fake Wi-Fi networks to conduct what is known as “man in the middle attacks.” When possible, avoid opening private documents or your online banking information.

vacation Planning and Research

  • Only book from secure websites. Purchasing plane tickets or booking tours online? Before typing in your credit card number, make sure the website you’re on (1) is a reputable site from a brand name that you know and trust, and (2) has a URL that begins with “HTTPS”.
    • The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’ and means the information and data you send is encrypted. 
  • Secure your bank accounts and credit cards. Be sure to notify your bank and credit card companies of the dates you’ll be travelling, the cities you be visiting and some of the larger purchases you’ll be making. This way, you’ll be notified if there is suspicious activity on your account.
  • Update your phone. If you’ve been putting off a software update, add the task to your vacation checklist. Each update brings new features, improvements and most importantly, security fixes. The same goes with all apps – take the time to make sure all your software is up to date.

Grandma KarenBefore You Leave 

  • Verify anti-theft software. Most smartphones have anti-theft software so that if you lose or have your phone stolen, your data can be wiped from it remotely. Update your phone’s software and look through your settings to ensure this option is turned on. 
  • Set up two-step verification. This is a method for securing all of your online accounts (ex. Apple ID, online banking, email and social media) through an extra layer of security when you log in. Typically, it comes in the form of a code sent to your phone via text message so you’ll immediately know if someone is trying to access your info. 
  • Be aware of your phone’s geolocation settings. Every time you post an image to Instagram or Facebook, you might be posting your exact location via the default ‘geotagging’ data that is attached to each pic. Though you may be tempted to brag to your friends about the great margarita bar you discovered on the beach, you likely wouldn’t want potential burglars to know that you’re hundreds of miles away from your home.
    • Disable your phone’s geolocation feature. Go to Settings, Privacy, then Location Services, and from there you can select which apps you want to allow to use your GPS location.
    • Don’t proactively tag your location within apps like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. But if you must geotag, make sure your privacy settings are strong, and that only trusted friends and followers can see what you post and where you are. 
  • Remove sensitive documents and data. Leave behind what you don’t need. If there are documents or data accessible from your connected devices that are particularly personal, consider removing them from the devices and copying onto an external storage device for the duration of your trip.
  • Beware of free Wi-Fi. When in coffee shops, airports or hotels, you should always be cautious. Free public Wi-Fi can be vulnerable so avoid pulling up private documents or your online banking information completely.
    • When possible, use a virtual private network (VPN). This will encrypt the data being send over the public Wi-Fi network.
    • Many scammers set up fake Wi-Fi networks to conduct what is known as a “man in the middle attack.” If you are in a coffee shop, hotel or airport, make sure you are using the legitimate free Wi-Fi service. You can ask an employee for the name of the legitimate Wi-Fi network to be sure.

shutterstock_160903715En Route and While on Vacation

  • Be wary of public computers: There’s no harm in using a public computer, like at the hotel’s business center, for tasks that don’t require you to log into an account, such as checking train schedules or museum hours, but the security risk lies in accessing personal accounts, as malware that can memorize your keystrokes (and therefore your username, password or other sensitive information) could be lurking.
    • If you must access personal accounts on a public computer, use an incognito browser that doesn’t store your information, and be sure the sites you’re visiting have an ‘HTTPS’ Web address.
    • It’s also a good idea to clear the Internet browser’s cache, history, and cookies after you’re done.

Have a safe and happy vacation!

AVG Technologies

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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