The Ascentor guide to a cyber safe summer holiday
“We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more logins for a week or two…”
Well, not exactly. The holiday season is about to get in full swing, but many of us will be traveling with the same devices we use at home and work – with all the associated security risks.
Using your devices with hotel or airport Wi-Fi? Taking your mobile to the beach? Posting your holiday plans on social media?
What could possibly go wrong?
Follow these tips and stay cyber safe during the summer. We’ve got suggestions for before you go, while you’re away and even to welcome you (safely) home.
Before you go
You’ve set up your out of office message and got the suitcases packed – but have you got these things covered? There’s nothing worse than a bit of panic on your way to the airport.
- Back up before you pack up. The devices you are traveling with are really worth very little – but the data on them is, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. Do a back up (here’s our guide) so, if the worst happens and you lose your device, you won’t lose your data.
- If your company allows or you’ll be accessing personal files, cloud back up should fine. If it’s company data, use whatever back up they stipulate before you go.
- What data will you really need access to? If there are sensitive files you are not likely to use, your device is the last place they should be. Remove what you won’t need before you leave.
- Make sure every device is password protected (with strong passwords) and the latest operating systems and anti-virus security software are installed.
- If you haven’t done so for a while, also change your passwords before you go and start using a password manager which will create and store complex passwords for you. Just don’t forget your login to that.
- If you are leaving devices in your home, lock them away out of sight. As well as cyber security advice, this is a common-sense measure to thwart burglars. They know most of the obvious hiding places, so it’s worth being creative.
- Disable Wi-Fi auto connect options from all devices. Most devices will ‘look’ for available networks as you travel. Using public Wi-Fi while traveling is a security risk. Disabling auto connect options means that you (rather than your device) decide when to use them.
- Even better, set up a secure global Wi-Fi account – which will only use safe hotspots ensuring your data is protected over a secure connection. A Google search for ‘global Wi-Fi suppliers’ will return a number of options.
- It’s also a good idea to set up a VPN on your laptop beforehand if you think you’ll need to access sensitive material for work or use your mobile banking app
- It goes without saying that your devices should all be PIN protected anyway – whether or not you are traveling. Keeping them secure with a PIN, or better a passphrase, will prevent the wrong people from accessing the device and stealing your personal data.
- Social media – don’t make any big pre-holiday announcements. You are excited about your holiday – almost as much as the hackers or burglars who might have been following your social media accounts. They know where you live and work, they’d love to know when you’ll be away for two weeks.
- What’s more, some insurance policies won’t pay-out if they find evidence of holiday plans being posted on social media.
On your travels
If you’ve done all of the above, you’ll already be well on your way to a cyber safe holiday. But, one slip while away can undo everything – before you’ve even left the airport.
- Airports… watch out – they are the home of multiple Wi-Fi networks where danger lurks in shops, cafes and waiting areas. If you do use public Wi-Fi, try to use it only for basic browsing and applications that do not involve personal data. And here’s why…
- Picture the scene… you’ve landed, you fire up your device and you don’t recognise any of the Wi-Fi networks – why would you? But one looks official, ‘teneriffeairport’ – except that Tenerife only has one f. It’s a Wi-Fi trap – your security has been compromised. Connect to that and you’ll wish you’d stayed at home. All the more reason to have that secure Wi-Fi account.
- You can also use that VPN to enhance your security by encrypting your connection.
- Don’t trust any chargers other than your own. Hotel chargers and docking stations can easily have malware installed in them.
- Traveling with your device in any large city requires great care. The same goes for the beach. You’ll have been spotted within seconds of entering a train station or metro so beware of any commotion or diversion. It’s very likely being created to enable thieves to operate.
- Social media (again) – most sites automatically share your location as you post photos and messages. So limit the information you post regarding your location at any point in time. And please, don’t check in with Facebook every time you dine out or stay somewhere nice. That goes for the whole family too.
Home sweet home
On arrival home, there’s just a couple of things to do before you can get back to your normal routine.
- Just as your doctor would warn you about picking up any bugs abroad, your cyber security consultant would say the same. Scan your devices and run anti-virus programmes to make sure you haven’t brought back anything you didn’t want to.
- Passwords – if you used any while you were away and didn’t have a password manager – it may be worth changing them just in case they fell into the wrong hands while you were away.
You might be on holiday but the cyber criminal won’t be. They never are. So a few careful tips will make that well earned break all the more safe – and enjoyable. And, while these tips were written to help you be cyber safe this summer – they are all worth adopting throughout the year.
So relax, log off (if you possibly can) and don’t forget to send us a postcard.
For Further Information
If you have any questions about the topics we've covered, or would like to have a chat about any aspect of your own cyber security strategy, please get in touch with the team at Ascentor.
Please use the contact details below - also found on our Contact Us page.