Security tips for travelers this Thanksgiving

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woman on train drinking coffee using mobile phone

With Thanksgiving and other holiday travels coming up, it’s a great time to review internet safety tips. For travelers, moving from one place to another without a secure and private connection makes it challenging to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of your personal data and online accounts.

We collected some key advice to keep in mind whenever you’re on the move and connecting outside the security of your home.

1. Restrict physical access to your devices

Given that you don’t know who will get near your devices, always remember to configure a PIN, password or unlock pattern on all your electronic devices. Since an unlock pattern can be easily guessed, a secure password is always the best option. Consider installing a security solution like ESET Mobile Security, which allows you to remotely manage your device, and, in the case of theft or loss, to find your device, activate its alarm, and lock or wipe it.

Secure your external portable hard drives and USB flash drives with an application like DriveSecurity™ powered by ESET. Likewise, be careful at USB charging stations at airports and other public places. They can be altered to execute malware onto your device, so use a USB protector whenever possible.

2. Secure your data transfer

Unless they have roaming plans and unlimited budgets for consuming data, most travelers use open networks in public places, which can be insecure.

The best way to stay safe on public Wi-Fi is to install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) client on your devices. If you travel a lot and connect to different networks, this is a wise investment.

If you don’t have a VPN, be sure to use a security solution that includes a firewall, such as ESET Internet Security, to keep you invisible on public Wi-Fi.

Delete the networks you connected to after you use them in order to prevent attacks from false hotspots. Deactivate your devices’ Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols if you are not using them.

3. Strengthen the authentication of your online accounts

Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication. This requires a second form of identity verification in addition to a password: for example, a one-time security code that is sent to your phone.

You can enable two-factor authentication for banking and travel websites, Google, Apple ID, Twitter, etc. Just visit their websites for details.

During and after travel, check the activity of your bank accounts and social networks to ensure that there is no unusual behavior. Stay attentive to security alerts and change your login credentials if you suspect you have been compromised. The best way to manage your credentials is with a tool like ESET Password Manager, which can create strong and unique passwords for all your accounts.

4. Monitor your privacy both before and during your trip

Many public Wi-Fi networks require that you share your personal data via a gated portal, before letting you connect to the Internet. Usually, this consists of your email address, but some can even ask you to create an account with your personal data in the system. Try not to share your real data, and keep an account with an email address especially for these situations to minimize risks to your data.

While we understand that travel plans are fun to share, be careful with the information you publish on social media, since it can be manipulated for malicious ends. When a cybercriminal knows where you are at every moment, that information could be used to contact your family and fake a kidnapping, or to enter your house while it is empty. Publishing photos of airplane tickets with all your information and bar codes is an even worse idea.

5. Protect your purchases online

Online purchases are an inevitable reality while you travel. Plane tickets, hotel reservations and tour packages are just some of the services that you utilize on your itinerary. For greater security, try to use your credit card when you make online purchases, instead of a debit card, because if your credit card is stolen, it is much easier to report and revert the situation than with a debit card.

 Furthermore, if your debit card is stolen, then you run the risk of finding yourself in the middle of your trip with an empty bank account and no funds to continue your itinerary.

Be careful when taking money out of an ATM, and check that there are no loose or easily removable parts in the card reader strips where you insert your bank card, as this can indicate a card-skimming device.

If you wish to purchase an electronic device outside of your country, look for a trustworthy manufacturer that doesn’t have a history of vulnerabilities or of distributing devices with malware.

6. Avoid scams for travelers

Travelers are common targets for cyber fraud, as they can be targeted by fake websites, phishing emails promising unbelievable deals, and other scams. Protect yourself with a robust security solution like ESET Smart Security Premium, which can detect attempts to execute malware on your computer.

If you are sending confidential information, verify that the connection is encrypted with HTTPS, which you can usually observe as a padlock symbol in front of the URL. Don’t click on links in suspicious emails. Instead, contact the entity to whom the promotion supposedly belongs via phone or verified social media.

Remember to follow this advice to keep yourself secure, and we hope you have a great Thanksgiving getaway!