5 Ways to Protect Your Personal Devices During Holiday Travel
It’s the most wonderful time of the year...aside from holiday travel. According to AAA’s 2021 Year End Forecast, more than 109 million Americans will be traveling for the holidays. If you plan on working while you travel, be sure to pack our cybersecurity tips along with your gifts, and warm sweaters.
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With offices emptying out and people on the move, your company is at a higher risk of attack during the holidays. The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have seen “an increase in highly impactful ransomware attacks” over holidays and weekends. So, as you wave goodbye to your colleagues this festive season, share these important tips for protecting their personal devices and your organization’s data.
1. Recognize Mobile Device Risks
Whether you use an iPhone, Android phone, tablet or other device, it’s important to see it for what it is – a fully capable computer. Your mobile device, especially those that deliver ultra-convenient features and apps right out of the box, is susceptible to multiple risks during online transactions.
Whether you are sharing social posts, performing banking transactions or shopping, you need to take all the precautions you normally would when performing these activities from your home or office computer. In fact, you need to take more. As you move through areas of high traffic or get distracted by travel activities, such as removing items for airport security checks, you must account for the physical security of your mobile device.
Holiday travel is hectic. So when you have to remove personal items and place them in bins during security checks, place your personal device and wallet in the final bin. This keeps them as close as possible to you throughout the security check. Less-needed items can be placed in the earlier bins. If someone steals your belt from the first bin, that’s a loss you can recover from quickly. But if you’re far back in line when your mobile device and wallet go through, a skilled criminal could be off with them long before you realize what has happened.
2. Don’t Fall for Free Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi should be used for nothing more than general web browsing. Once you decide to access business information, shop, bank or do anything that requires a password, you should ditch the Wi-Fi. Hackers constantly hang around places with public Wi-Fi, hoping to tap into sensitive data that unsuspecting travelers input to perform online transactions.
Oddly enough, even people who know the risks often treat holiday travel times as if the normal threats take a vacation along with theirs. Criminals are counting on you being the person who says, “Oh, it’s just this one, quick little gift I’m buying.” Always remind yourself that your vacation is not vacation time for criminals. In fact, that’s usually when they have the most work to do.
Sometimes you have to log into an account or make a purchase (say for a last minute gift). If you absolutely have no choice, switch off the Wi-Fi connection on your device and use your personal data plan (the one that says 4G or 5G) to connect to the Internet.
3. Avoid Charging Stations
Ugh! Your phone has just 7% power remaining, and you still have a two-hour flight to catch! Unless you have your own portable charger, you’re probably out of luck. You do not want to connect your device to any charging station which you do not control completely. You can’t even safely charge your phone on a computer in the hotel’s business center or one at the local library. Those can be just as dangerous.
You have no idea what software is running on those computers, and if one has malware on it, it can engage with your mobile device via the USB cable used to make the connection. That opens your device to injection of malware and manipulation by the infected computer.
4. Turn off Bluetooth when Not in Use
Are you one of those folks who just loves hands-free talking via an earpiece or flipping out an external keyboard to avoid typing on tiny phone keys? Such conveniences are great! They are also fully exploitable when you’re not using them, but Bluetooth is left ‘On’. That’s when hackers can swoop in and pair with your Bluetooth connection, then make off with your personal information.
5. Encrypt Your Files before You Travel
Sure, it’s incredibly convenient to copy certain files over to your mobile device. Maybe one is a file with all your passwords, or a group of files associated with a potentially huge customer contract that requires your participation. Whatever it is, it should never live on your mobile device (or any computer for that matter) without being fully encrypted first. That way, if your phone gets hacked or you lose it, criminals will not be able to get their hands on that vital information.
No Holiday Travel for You This Year?
If you plan to stay at home this holiday season, then you’ll likely have a bit of time to shore up the defenses around your home office. To help make that effort easier, check out our recent post, Top 10 Tips for Secure Remote Work.
Happy Holidays and safe travel from the Splashtop team!