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3 security mistakes that can ruin your next trip

3 security mistakes that can ruin your next trip
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Whether you're a frequent traveler for business or are already booking your flight, reserving a hotel room and getting ready for this year's summer vacation, there are some precautions you need to know about before you head out on your next trip.

If you're packing a smartphone, laptop, smartwatch or tablet, then the risks increase significantly. And - let's face it - almost everyone travels with some type of gadget these days. Here are three common mistakes you should avoid while traveling.

1. Not knowing your rights

The rules for international travel have become more stringent over the past several years. Since 9/11, security measures have been enhanced in the name of safety. For example, in the past, U.S. citizens didn't need a passport to visit Mexico or Canada and now they do.

Now, some people entering the U.S. are being asked to hand over their gadgets. Does this safety measure go too far?

Immigration Attorney Mana Yegani said U.S. border patrol agents are asking people to hand over their gadgets before entering the country. They are doing this so they can access the travelers' online accounts including Facebook, text messages and bank information.

As far as U.S. law goes, courts have ruled in the past that suspects can be required to unlock their phones without violating the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. However, they do not have to give them their passcodes because they can be used against them maliciously.

What you must do before international travel: The most important thing before leaving or entering the country is knowing your rights. These rights can vary for each traveler, depending on the type of visa they have.

Yegani is urging people to speak with an attorney before traveling so you know exactly what your rights are. Also, if you are detained by an agent while entering the U.S., you should tell them that you would like to speak to a lawyer. Click here to learn more about what's changed for international travelers.

2. Trusting public Wi-Fi

When you travel, it's tempting to use the public Wi-Fi network at the airport, coffee shops and other venues, or even the guest login provided for your hotel room. But you probably shouldn't. Public Wi-Fi is open to everyone, which makes it a prime target for hackers. And every device is susceptible, no matter if it's your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

For that reason, you need to be careful whenever you join a public network. If you must use public Wi-Fi, then use these tips to protect yourself:

  • Ask for the network name: Just because a public Wi-Fi network pops up and asks if you want to join, doesn't mean it's legitimate. If you're at a coffee shop, hotel, or another place of business, ask an employee for the specific name of their Wi-Fi network. Scammers will sometimes create networks called "Coffee Shop" or "Hotel Guest" to make you believe you're connecting to the real thing when, actually, you're not.
  • Be skeptical of links: Scammers are skilled at making links seem enticing so you'll fall for their trick, but there are some signs that should make you think twice before you click. First, if something makes an outrageous claim or sounds too good to be true, it's probably not legitimate. Second, if you're prompted to download something, you probably should avoid it. Here's a little trick: To see what's hiding behind a hyperlink, see what shows up in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen when you hover your mouse over it.
  • Avoid certain websites: Unless you're planning to do some general web surfing, it's probably best to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. When using public Wi-Fi, always assume that somebody out there is watching. Here's a good rule of thumb: If it requires a username and password to log in, you should only access that site from your own private network.
  • Stay encrypted: When you do connect to public networks, encrypted data is essential to your online security. However, you can't always trust that the network is encrypting that data for you. Visiting SSL sites, or websites that begin with the letters H-T-T-P-S means that the data exchanged is being encrypted. But you still may want to take additional precautions.
  • Use VPNs: You might not realize that it's easy to create your own private network. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can be created wherever you go if you have the right software. There are several apps that create VPNs, as well as online security software.
  • Use online security software: Security software offers security for your computer, smartphone and tablet so that you're covered no matter which device you're using. This coverage includes anti-phishing technology, Wi-Fi security alerts, webcam protection, secure shopping and banking, malware detection, and more.
Next page: A mistake that's hiding in your wallet.
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