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How to Avoid Getting Hacked Next Time You Leave Home

5 minute read

How times have changed. It used to be that when you packed for a trip, you wanted to be sure not to forget vitals like your toothpaste, swimsuit, or even travelers’ checks. But if forgotten, those things can be replaced on the road.

Instead, these days, we obsess about packing our smartphones, tablets, and even laptops. However, bringing tech on a trip can expose your entire life to hackers and cyber-crooks. So before you book your next vacation, consider these six tips on how to stay cyber-safe while traveling:

1. Don’t check your device: Make sure you keep your smartphone, tablet, or computer with you, rather than placing it in your checked luggage. “There’s a number of things that could happen to it — getting damaged or stolen — once it’s out of your sight,” says Stacey Vogler, managing director for Protect Your Bubble, a company that provides insurance for everything from cell phones to identity theft. In addition, RFID-blocking products like those made by Silent Pocket can protect everything from your tablet to your passport from digital snoops using over-the-air technology to get at your data.

2. Keep it encased: While keeping your smartphone in a case is great advice for everyday life, it’s especially appropriate when you’re traveling. Firstly, when you’re moving around the world and out of your comfort zone, your phone is especially susceptible to being dropped. Also, thieves eye well-heeled tourists with high-priced handsets whom may not know where to turn if their phone gets lifted. Cases can help camouflage your top-of-the-line model. And finally, you’re more likely to use GPS and other memory-intensive features when you’re out and about, so a battery case is especially helpful on the road.

Incipio makes a line of rugged, battery-boosting cases for a wide range of smartphones that make for great travel partners. Also, if you’re going someplace warm and watery, get a protector that can shield your device from liquids as well as drops. According to data from Protect Your Bubble, water damage claims rise in the summer months.

3. Watch your Wi-Fi: It’s tempting to tap into local wireless networks to cut back on data charges when you’re traveling, especially when you’re abroad. “Be careful which Wi-Fi network that you access,” says Vogler. “Make sure that it’s a secure one, and one that you’ve been given a password for.” If the network you’re connecting to doesn’t require a password, anyone could be on it, and have access to the information you’re sending or receiving. So the rule of thumb is if it doesn’t ask for a password, it’s not secure.

This primer on using public Wi-Fi from Internet security company Kaspersky Labs can help you protect down your phone or tablet if you must use these networks, but the safest bet is to get your access from a trusted, secure source, like your hotel.

4. Password protect your device: Sure, it might be a pain, but password protecting your phone, tablet, and PC is a goal-line defense for keeping cyber-thieves from your personal information. If you think about it, while your phone or tablet may fetch a crook hundreds of dollars; your identity can be worth thousands more. Make sure to enable every safety mechanism available for your device, from iOS’s Find My iPhone to the Android Device Manager used to locate Google-compatible phones. These apps also work for tablets as well, so make sure your slate is set up to be detected, too.

5. Bank the old-fashioned way: More than ever, people need access to and information about their money when traveling. That makes tourists and business travelers alike great targets for data theft. The best way not to expose your financial information is to bank the old-fashioned way: use cash if you can, hit a teller for balance inquiries if possible, or call into your institution’s telephone services if you need remote access. Using the app, as secure as banks make them out to be, only makes you a possible target for identity theft.

6. Stay off social media: Everyone loves sharing vacation photos, but consider showing off your sunset selfie after you touch back down in your hometown. That’s because posting your on-location photos tells people that your home is left unattended. You might think your friends would never use that against you, but if your privacy settings are public (or friends of friends) on Facebook, or if you don’t have a locked-down Twitter account, you’re basically telling the world that you’re not home.

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