How to Protect Your Personal Data While Traveling
Reduce your risk of getting hacked or having your identity stolen with these tips from the pros.
Change PasswordsKevin Emert, chief information security officer of Scripps Network Interactive (Travel Channel's parent company), especially recommends this step for international travel. Change passwords before you leave and again when you return home for the accounts you know you’ll use while traveling. 960 1280
Ensure Security on Your Devices is Up to DateCheck that antivirus, malware and operating systems are up to date with security patches and features, says Emert. Password-protecting your devices is also another layer of security in case they're stolen. 960 1280
Be Vigilant Against TheftWhile it’s important to take precautions against cyber hacking, Emert notes the most common problem while traveling with devices is theft. “Leaving it unattended for a matter of seconds could potentially lead to theft,” he says. Emert also cautions being mindful of those around you, since someone might be watching as you enter passwords. 960 1280
Don’t Use USB Chargers in Public Spaces
Emert warns there’s a growing trend of “juice jacking,” where criminals can gain access to information on your device via the USB cable since it contains two wires—one for power, and one for data transfer.
Criminals can also use the USB cable to install ransomware, which allows them to hold your device ransom in exchange for money. Instead of using a USB port, Emert suggests using the AC power brick that plugs into a power outlet.960 1280
Don’t Trust Public Wi-FiThis includes airports, hotels, trains and public spaces, regardless if the network is free, paid or password-protected. “If you’re on it, so is a would-be criminal,” says Emert. He also strongly cautions against connecting to financial institutions over a Wi-Fi network, particularly when abroad, whether through an app on your device or directly from the institution’s website. “You should assume that someone is probably watching you,” he says. 960 1280
Use a Personal Hotspot ConnectionA personal hotspot is a secure way to connect to the Internet via your wireless carrier's data plan if you lack Wi-Fi access—which is often the case when traveling. “Where a hotspot through a trusted carrier is available, that is a more secure method than choosing a public available wireless network,” says Emert.
Turn Off Wireless Features You Don’t NeedTraveling to a remote location isn't the only reason why you would turn off wireless capabilities. Emert says that services such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are designed to connect to available networks unless you have security features enabled. “Criminals can use those wireless connections to track your movement through an airport.” 960 1280
Use Your Debit Card as a Credit CardCyber security also pertains to debit and credit cards. Emert says it’s safer to select the credit card option when making a purchase with a debit card since it requires a signature instead of a PIN number. It’s still debited from your account, but the signature requires a three-day waiting period before charging the purchase, whereas debit is instantaneous. The credit card feature is also insured in case an unauthorized purchase is made, and Emert notes it’s easier to recoup those losses from a credit card company than from your local bank. However, the safest method is a credit card with chip technology combined with your signature.
The exception would be using your debit card at an airport ATM, especially if it’s with a well-known banking institution. “The risk of your information being compromised at that ATM are relatively low.” 960 1280
Leave Your Devices (and Non-Essential Personal Identification) at HomeFinally, if you can manage without your laptop, phone or tablet, Emert says the safest place for them is at home. He also advises leaving behind any personal identification you don’t need, such as additional credit cards. Or if you’re traveling abroad, there’s no need to carry a driver’s license in addition to your passport. “When you’re traveling, assume, from a personal identification standpoint … that it’s not a safe environment,” says Emert. 960 1280
Contain Water DamageWater damage is one of the most common threats to phones, but a wet phone doesn’t have to ruin a trip. First, turn the phone off if it hasn’t done so automatically. Dave Dean, Founder of tech site Too Many Adapters, warns against turning it back on, since that can damage the circuit board. Next, put your phone in a sealed bag or container of dry rice for two days. It may sound like an old wives tale, but experts agree this can work as a first line of defense—although Dean feels it works better if your phone was dropped in fresh water instead of salt water. He also recommends silica beads (packets are commonly found in many food items) as another way to remove moisture from your phone. 960 1280
Deal With a Shattered Screen
If the crack is minor, place a screen cover over it, or use clear packing tape. If the screen is completely shattered, Johnny Jet, founder of travel site JohnnyJet.com, says to put the phone in a plastic bag until you can get the screen replaced. Be careful about cutting yourself on shards of glass. Phil Baker, president of the product design company Techsperts, says it costs about $100 to replace a screen, and repair stores can easily fix it.