Cybersecurity when traveling

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During the holiday season, people in the U.S. take about 15 billion trips between 50 and 500 miles away from their homes (as estimated by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics). Visiting family or taking getaways is an excellent way to celebrate a season filled with holiday cheer. Unfortunately, it is also the time when cybercrime increases, making it essential to understand how to protect yourself and your devices during your holiday travels. 

There is no better time than right now to review cybersecurity tips for safe traveling:

  • Update software and apps. Operating systems in all devices, and your everyday applications, have security features that are regularly updated by the manufacturer. Consistently updating devices and applications improves cybersecurity.
  • Backup your data. Ensuring your data is backed up to another device or the cloud will provide you with more options in case of a data breach, theft, or loss of a device during your holiday travels. 
  • Turn off auto and remote connection features before you leave the house. Wireless devices will automatically connect to any available network when not on your home network, which creates an opportunity for you to connect to malicious networks or devices unknowingly. Turn this feature off before you leave for your holiday travels and connect only to networks you know are safe.
  • Avoid online shopping when using a public network. These days, most planes, hotels, cafes, restaurants, and even stores have a public wireless network that can be accessed by both you and the hackers who want your confidential information. Instead, use your own network connection when shopping online or use a virtual private network (VPN).
  • Keep your devices locked. An easy action item that can be extremely difficult to remember when traveling is locking your devices. Traveling often means children playing with their iPads in the car until parents stop for a bite to eat and parents taking breaks from email and social media to jump in the pool with their kids. So even if setting your device down for only a few minutes, don’t forget to lock it before you walk away. 
  • Don’t announce your travel plans on social media. This may be one of the most difficult things to avoid for all family members. Nevertheless, announcing travel plans on social media puts your home at risk, which is where lots of important personal information can be found. Instead, keep the fun pictures for after you’ve returned home. 

Refer to Travel Safely With Technology for more tips from the ITS Safe Computing website.

Don’t let worry over cybercrime ruin your travel plans. Instead, prepare yourself, your devices, and your family for the trip by taking the above steps to ensure cybersecurity while you travel and enjoy the holiday season! 

Author: Jennifer Wilkerson, ITS Information Assurance

Jen is the lead performance support analyst with ITS Information Assurance. You can reach her at jmruk@umich.edu.