With the Olympics right around the corner and being that we are in the heart of the summer, I’m sure many of you will find yourselves travelling quite extensively. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to go cold turkey from the Internet. It’s equally impossible to find a place that doesn’t offer some ability to get you online – whether you’re in the heart of the Serengeti or even on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic (I have actually seen Internet kiosks in both of these places!).
With that, we wanted to offer some tips to keep your online travels safe, even when you are away from home:
1. Don’t let your laptop or PDA sprout mysterious legs. Leaving your laptop out in the open in your hotel room can often prove irresistible to a thief. Many thieves are even known to scour popular vacation or conference spots looking for someone who leaves their laptop alone. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a good idea to be discreet about even having a laptop in the first place. Finally, along the same lines, with all the hoops people have to jump through at the airport, many passengers simply forget to put their laptops back in their bags at the security checkpoint. As a precautionary measure, you should encrypt your data before you travel. The last thing you would want is a thief getting their hands on a recent bank or credit card statement (or even pictures from your vacation last year).
2. Make sure all the critical software applications on your machine have up to date patches. This includes not only the core operating system, but also third party applications that you run – whether it’s the software you use to purchase and play your favorite music, or simply what you use to view documents. Since you may find yourself surfing over less-than-friendly networks, it helps to ensure that you’re not an easy mark for a cyber attacker.
3. Accidentally dropping your laptop while running to catch your flight can be hazardous to your data. And let’s also not forget the risks associated with the person sitting next to you on the plane – whether they are looking over your shoulder or spilling a beverage on your device. A privacy screen can help keep your information secure. And backing up critical files can keep you calm if there is a spill.
4. Always run a comprehensive Internet security software suite that is up to date. While you are out and about, and connecting to the Internet in entirely unfamiliar locales, you should keep in mind that the network may not be completely secure. Therefore, it’s good to keep your machine protected from the large number of malicious threats that surreptitiously traverse the roads of cyberspace.
5. Be careful of machines at the local cyber café or free internet kiosk – the last person to have used the machine may have unknowingly (or knowingly!) left a nasty piece of malware on there for you. In general, never use these machines to connect to a web site that requires you to type your password or for that matter don’t type any sensitive information into these systems. For all you know, that information could be recorded and sent to an attacker half way around the world. In one instance we are aware of, travelers who failed to heed this advice had their brokerage accounts emptied because their passwords were recorded by keystroke loggers installed on machines in an Internet café. If you use your own computer at an Internet café, be sure that any sensitive information you enter into it is encrypted, either by using a virtual private network (VPN) or by ensuring that you are communicating over SSL.
The summer is a great time to relax and unwind. So, I hope you employ these tips and keep yourself virtually safe wherever you physically find yourself. Bon Voyage!