Depending on where you live, spring break is either happening or quickly approaching, and the weather and the daily grind of the winter makes us more than ready to leave everything behind when that vacation finally comes.
This also can mean a lack of inhibition. We all like to have fun and let the world know about it. We bring more and more devices with us that can contain private information that can end up lost or stolen. As with any travel, common sense goes a long way towards protecting not only your physical safety, but your online safety as well. Here are some things to think about.
Watch those hotspots. Most airports, hotels and restaurants now offer free Wi-Fi hotspots, which become especially tempting to use if you have a tablet that can’t connect on a cell network. However, hackers create bogus hotspots that use the name of a hotel or restaurant you may be in that are not password protected. They lurk on the same hotspot, ready to grab your information. When presented with a choice, would you pick one without a padlock because it means not going through the hassle of logging in? Make sure you ask the hotel or restaurant the exact name of their hotspot.
Avoid checking financial sites. You may be tempted to check your account balances when you’re away for peace of mind. For the reasons mentioned above, avoid logging into your banking site from a hotspot. If you must, use the hotel’s hard wired ethernet connection or the cellular network on your phone. You also can use a secure browser, which ensures that sensitive transactions like banking stay private.
Don’t overshare. It’s natural to want to share your good times with friends and family. A common travel tip is to avoid sharing those vacation pictures through Facebook or Instagram because you’re giving criminals back home a heads up that you’re away and your home is wide open.
But you’re also sharing clues as to what your passwords may be. Do they include that favorite vacation spot, your kid’s name or your favorite Disney character? Hackers are looking for such hints. If you just can’t help sharing, bump up your Facebook security and privacy.
Browse securely. If you truly unplug on vacation by leaving your laptop at home, points for you! But you may find yourself in a pinch where you need to get online to respond to an email or log into an airline site to check your flight. Fortunately, that public computer in the hotel lobby or business center is there for you.
You have no idea who used the computer last or who will use it next. It may be loaded with malware that logs your keystrokes, or the browser may capture your password automatically. If the browser provides the option to “go incognito,” use it. In Google Chrome, open the options menu (the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner) and choose “New incognito window…” It’s also always a good idea to manually log out of any site and clear the search history and cookies before you close the browser.
Our gadgets are so much a part of our travel experiences and spring break is no exception. It’s just important to take some extra precautions so that a dream vacation doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
What other tips would you offer? Please let us know!