Vacation is the one thing everyone looks forward to every year – if you take it all at once, if you take two separate weeks out of the year, or many mini-vacations, we all find a way to spend our vacation time.
You’re doing some remote work from a coffee shop (or bar) at the beach – not thinking, you get up for another icy drink, but by the time you’ve returned to your table, you notice that something is missing. After a few seconds, you realize that it is your work computer – it has vanished – swiped by a waiting opportunist.
This is an obvious but often-forgotten tip. Never leave your electronics – that includes laptops, cell phones, and any other devices – unattended in a public space. That single window of only a few seconds can open wide to petty theft and tampering.
On top of not leaving electronic devices unattended, it is wise to disable location sharing on devices, as location sharing enables criminals to actively monitor your location – revealing opportune moments to strike.
In a rush to make an after-lunch call-in meeting you connect to the airport’s wi-fi.
Public Wi-Fi, especially in a high-traffic destination such as an airport, bus station, train station, or communal area can be a honeypot for potential thieves – while connected to a public Wi-Fi network, personal electronic devices send out unencrypted signals that are easy to pick up – these messages can give away information mid-transmission such as email usernames and passwords, bank account information, and private data like social security numbers.
VPN: Virtual private networks spoof your computer’s identity and IP address, essentially making it anonymous to any prying eyes.
Mobile Hotspot: Mobile hotspots are available through most major cellular providers. While they are generally used as backups when Wi-Fi goes down or isn’t available, they are also a great option to provide a barrier between your electronic devices and any prying eyes on the local wi-fi connection.
If a VPN or trustworthy mobile hotspots aren’t available, it is best to just stay offline.
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The boss asks you to pick up a few things at the office supply store on the way to your yearly Skiing trip – what an aggravation. However, you’ve lucked out, because you manage to find the exact obscure novelty stationery they were looking for at a roadside gas station. You take out your company card and charge it, then get moving again, eager to hit the slopes. After a full day of slopes, you return to your room, only to see four missed calls from your boss and a novel worth of angry text messages.
“WHY DID YOU CHARGE A $750 COMPUTER ONTO YOUR COMPANY CARD?”
“PLANE TICKETS TO BRAZIL???”
“LOUIS VUITTON LUGGAGE, STEAMER TRUNK AND ALL – WHO EVEN STILL USES THOSE!?!?”
Credit card skimming devices are incredibly common. Inspect the card reading slot and keypad. Do they appear tampered with? Do they match surrounding equipment? If both questions check out to the clear, the device is likely secure. It is also advisable to avoid using your PIN on public payment devices, as a stolen PIN removes yet another layer of protection. If in doubt, do not use the payment device.
While on your office computer, you receive an alert for your personal email account – it is from Travelocity, saying that your flight tickets to the Bahamas have been suddenly canceled! Now fully alert, you open your emails and click to link to check the flight schedule. After entering your information, strangely, the website goes to a blank screen. Thinking it was a technical glitch, you retry, only to have the same thing happen again. It is on the third attempt that you realize you’ve been had – the splash page doesn’t truly belong to Travelocity, as the domain doesn’t match – your flight tickets are fine, however, you have accidentally given personal information to online scammers.
Scammers often spoof trusted sites such as banking, travel, gaming, insurance, and healthcare landing and login pages to fool victims into filling in their personal information to be collected – often to be used for nefarious reasons or sold online.
There’s a critical PowerPoint presentation that you need to finish, but your laptop’s battery is on 5%. In a rush, you find a public charging dock in the airport – one of the few available. Pleased with yourself, you continue working, getting the presentation finished just as the plane begins to board – but by the time you land three hours later, there are some mysterious charges on your credit card.
You’ve been juicejacked – the charging station was a fake – installed by a criminal to steal information – once you had plugged in to charge, the criminal leapt into action, stealing information via a wired connection.
When traveling, use only trusted or non-USB powering sources.
Following these few basic tips, it is easy to stay secure when traveling. On this occasion, like many others in life, the advice of “better safe than sorry” truly applies.
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