The holiday travel season is in full swing, and with it comes a lot of cybersecurity risks. With that in mind, the FBI has released a list of tips to help keep travelers safe from cybercriminals while on the road.
Paired with TechRepublic’s guide to making you a savvier traveler, these tips will help keep you from falling victim not only to cybercriminals, but to real-life burglars and thieves as well.
1. Disable instant connection to open Wi-Fi networks
Open, unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a security nightmare and should be avoided at all costs. The problem is that many devices are configured by default to accept all connections from nearby unsecured Wi-Fi networks, opening them up to attackers who can load malware, steal data, and more.
You can find the settings to disable auto Wi-Fi connect, or notify you when your device tries to connect to any new Wi-Fi network, in the Wi-Fi options of Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS devices.
2. Double check network names before joining
If you’re at a hotel, airport lounge, restaurant, or anywhere else with a secure Wi-Fi network reserved for guests, you’re still not safe: An enterprising criminal with a spare Wi-Fi access point could configure a network with a similar name in the hopes of tricking travelers.
Always double check to be sure that the network you’re connecting to is the proper name, letter for letter, and don’t connect if you can’t be sure—especially if there are multiple networks with similar names nearby.
3. If unsecured Wi-Fi is necessary, never do anything sensitive on it
If you’re in a situation where you absolutely must get on a Wi-Fi network and have to use an unsecured one, never do anything sensitive on it: No banking, making purchases, or anything that involves logging in to a secure account. It’s a cinch for someone on that network to steal your credentials.
Along with public Wi-Fi, travelers should avoid using public charging stations as well: What appears to be a USB port that’s just providing power could easily be stealing data without your knowledge. If you need to charge a device while traveling bring a wall plug adaptor and find yourself an empty socket instead.
4. Use your phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature
Not all wireless contracts give you the ability to use your phone’s data connection to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, but if yours does it’s a great way to get online without the risk. Make sure your hotspot has a complicated password and that you’re the only one connected and you’ll be safer than you will be on any Wi-Fi network, secured or not.
5. Consider setting up a second home Wi-Fi network for guests
Most modern Wi-Fi routers and modems have the ability to broadcast multiple networks, including setting up a guest network that segregates your traffic from those of friends and family.
You never know if someone staying in your home is using an unsecured or compromised device, so creating a separate network is always a good precaution.
6. Disable location services while traveling
Broadcasting your location by posting on social media, logging in from unfamiliar spots, and doing other internet business that shares your location gives criminals a good indicator that you’re not at home. Turn off all location sharing while you’re away to keep your home safer.
7. Don’t post pictures or post about holiday travel
It may be hard, but avoid posting about your holiday plans and sharing photos of family get-togethers, at least until you arrive back home. It’s one thing for a smart criminal to use location data to figure out when you’re not at home, but it doesn’t take much effort to use public social media posts for someone to see when you’re away.