Many Americans travel frequently for one reason or another. You might be hitting a sunny beach to get away from the daily grind or visiting family and friends over the holidays to create special memories that last a lifetime.
Or you could be a businessperson who is constantly traveling for work. No matter what the reason is for your trip, you should be on the lookout for cybercriminals trying to steal your critical information.
That's why you need to know these tips on protecting your personal data while traveling.
Don't take it with you
Let's begin with the most common sense approach to protecting your personal data. If you don't need it, leave it at home.
I know, I know, it's scary to think about traveling without all of your gadgets by your side. Especially nowadays when they provide so much entertainment that helps pass the time while traveling.
But honestly, if you don't need your laptop or tablet while you're away, the safest place for them is at home. If your gadget isn't with you, a hacker won't be able to steal your data. One thing you could do is purchase an inexpensive tablet just for entertainment purposes that you never conduct sensitive business on.
If you must take a gadget with you, make sure to remove any critical data before you leave. Back up the devices that you're traveling with before you go. Remove things like financial statements and other sensitive documents just in case a cybercriminal finds a way to access your gadget.
It's not just gadgets that you need to worry about. Only take the credit cards that you're going to use with you. The ones that you're not going use are safer in a secure location at your home.
Be vigilant with gadget security
One way cybercriminals rip us off is by stealing our login credentials to websites that we visit. Think about all the sensitive information that would be exposed if someone else gets into your accounts. For example, if you shop with online retailers and a hacker gets into your account they could access your home address, phone number and payment information among other things.
Here's a way to protect your credentials every time that you travel. Change your passwords for the sites that you are going to use during the trip before you go. Then, change them again when the trip is over.
Also, make sure that your gadgets are as secure as possible. Password protect your devices so no one else can get into them in case they're lost or stolen. If you have the new iPhone X, set up facial recognition to keep criminals out.
Another thing you should do is have your antivirus software and operating systems up to date. Updates come with security patches that fix vulnerabilities to keep cybercriminals out.
The next suggestion is to turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi altogether. When Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled, your gadget searches for available networks to connect to. Cybercriminals are able to use those connections to track your movement and steal sensitive data.
Use a VPN while surfing the internet
You may have heard of something called a Virtual Private Network or VPN, for short, as a way to boost your online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. It is also a good way to hide your internet tracks from would-be snoops.
Simply put, a VPN service lets you create an encrypted connection with one of its servers, and you use that server to browse the internet. The connection is encrypted through the server, so the VPN can't see your traffic either. OK, it's a bit more complicated than that behind the scenes, but that's the result.
Think of it as a middleman that provides a tunnel between you and the websites you're visiting. With a VPN, your IP address can be concealed from prying eyes, even from your ISP, so your browsing activity can't be readily tracked to you.
A VPN is extremely useful when connecting to public Wi-Fi spots since it prevents snoops from intercepting your web traffic. Using one can also cloak your activity from advertisers, hackers and even spying from government agencies or your ISP.
Ensure the websites you visit are secure
Surfing the internet is commonplace these days. Most of us have our favorite websites that we check in on every day.
However, some of the sites that we visit can be a security risk. That's because not all of them are using encryption like banks and financial institutions do.
There are also sites that use encryption, but stop doing so after you have signed in. This leaves you vulnerable and open to hackers and malicious viruses.
One easy way to solve this problem is to add the browser extension HTTPS Everywhere.
HTTPS Everywhere switches thousands of sites from insecure "http" to secure "https." It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking and some forms of censorship.
It's easy to install and it keeps your communications secure with major websites. It's available for free on both Chrome and Firefox browsers.
If you're traveling by air, don't be fooled by these sneaky airport scams
Airports make the perfect target locations for scammers. They're crowded, and travelers are often distracted and carrying valuable possessions in their luggage. So, before you head to the airport for your next trip, here are three major airport scams you need to watch out for.