While we all crave relaxed summer getaways, it’s crucial to understand that adversaries never go on vacation. Unlike in schools where criminals take a break, they’re always on the prowl, looking to exploit any vulnerability. So, as we unwind during our holidays, vigilance and adherence to security protocols are paramount. In aid of promoting a secure environment, here are five straightforward steps to reduce risk as you head out for your holiday trip this summer.
Opt for Mobile Data Plans or Use Secure WiFi
Back in 2019, 82% of respondents to a popular survey (repeated in multiple marketing documents every year since) admitted they connect to any freely available public WiF. Even more disconcerting was that almost half of those respondents said they did not trust the connection even though they still used it. Since then, however, the use of free, public wifi has dramatically declined in the past four years to less than half of that original result. Moreover, more than half of the people using it know that it isn’t safe. But that means more than half still do use it. That leaves a still verdant field for cybercriminals.
The dangers linked to public WiFi include:
- Man-in-the-middle attacks: Unsecured networks make users susceptible to hackers who mimic WiFi networks to gain access to sensitive data. Open WiFi networks are especially prone as they lack encryption.
- Rogue access points: Cybercriminals can create malicious access points on the network, imitating genuine sites to trick users into revealing their credentials.
- Malware injections: Being on the same public WiFi with a malevolent actor can enable them to introduce malware or viruses into your device. These harmful elements, such as ads, trojans, worms, or ransomware, can be downloaded onto your device remotely.
Steps to maintain online safety:
- Employ a Virtual Private Network (VPN): Again, there is good news here, back in 2019, only 1% of people safeguarded their public WiFi with a VPN. New surveys show that has increased to more than 40 percent. So if you aren’t using a VPN, try to avoid connecting to public WiFi whenever feasible.
- Be mindful when selecting websites: If you must use public WiFi, refrain from accessing sites that require a password and contain sensitive data like online banking, social media, or even email accounts. Only provide credit card information on trusted sites using HTTPS encryption.
- Avoid accessing sensitive personal information like banking or shopping applications.
- Install HTTPS Everywhere* which will force all websites you visit to connect using “HTTPS.” This is available on Firefox, Chrome, and Opera and is produced by a collaboration between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Tor Project. By using this extension, you can reduce the risk of ending up on an unsafe website.
- Turn off the “Connect Automatically” feature on your devices so they don’t auto-connect and search for known Wi-Fi networks. Most public wifi hotspots require some form of assent before accessing, but a spoofed website may just connect to your device without you knowing.
- Carry a Faraday bag and drop your devices in it when not in use.
Safeguard Against Theft
The summer season regrettably attracts pickpockets and robbers, making it necessary to protect yourself and your belongings. Besides the risk of losing personal items, there’s also the potential for sensitive corporate data to be at risk, as many employees now use their phones for work-related activities. To secure your belongings and data, consider the following strategies:
- Backup: Use cloud storage services like Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud to securely store your photos, documents, and other vital files. Consider paying for a subscription for more storage and the ability to save photos in high resolution.
- Remote Wipe: Enable “Find My iPhone” on iPhone or “Find My Device” on Android to enable location tracking and remote wipe in the event the phone is lost or stolen.
- Hard copies: Ensure your travel documents are not just stored locally on your device. Keep them securely backed up in the cloud and also carry a printed copy in a secure location, ideally a hotel safe.
Restrict Sharing on Social Media Platforms
Posting about our vacation experiences on social media has become commonplace. But, it’s essential to be cautious about oversharing, as it could unintentionally alert potential thieves that your home is empty. To preserve privacy and security while still being able to share memorable moments, consider these precautions:
- Friends only: Alter your social media account settings to restrict the visibility of your posts. Platforms like Twitter allow you to make your tweets viewable to followers only, while on Facebook, you can change permissions to “Friends” instead of “Public” or “Friends of Friends.”
- Consider what you share: When posting about your holiday, avoid giving specific details that could disclose your location or signal that your home is unoccupied. Instead of saying, “Vacation time!,” opt for a more generic post that doesn’t divulge too much information.
Use Only Official Websites
When finalizing your travel plans, it’s common to receive email confirmations and updates from airlines and hotel staff.. To stay safe:
- Use the app: Most airlines and hotels have their own dedicated apps that deliver updates and notifications. By using these apps, you can get legitimate updates without relying on email communications.
- Don’t click! Rather than clicking on any notification in an email, take an extra step for security. Close the email and manually open your browser, then enter the official website URL directly. Look for the necessary action or information within the official site. While this may seem like an extra step, it greatly reduces the risk of succumbing to a phishing attempt.
Do not let the menace of criminals and thieves overshadow your well-earned leisure time. By adhering to these tips and incorporating them into your vacation routine, you can secure a safe and delightful experience. We trust this exhaustive guide will be helpful to you and your employees. If you have any more queries or need more guidance on maintaining security online and offline, feel free to reach out. Here’s wishing you a splendid and safe vacation!
Omer Taran is CTO & Co-founder of CybeReady