Vacation is a great time to relax and take a break from the stresses of the day-to-day. These days, though, most of us don’t have the opportunity to fully unplug while on our annual summer jaunt. While on the road (or in the air, or on a cruise), many of us will continue to check email, access bank accounts, update Facebook, and even log on to corporate or school web portals. But here’s the bad news: Surfing the web while away leaves us more susceptible to cyber attacks, as Karl Gumtow, CEO of CyberPoint International (a cyber security company located in the Inner Harbor) confirms. To stay safe, he recommends following a few secure-travel guidelines.
1. Don’t use public WiFi
While joining free public networks often seems like the easiest choice, it can open up the door to a cyber attack. “The key thing is that your data can be easily shared,” says Gumtow. “Someone could be sitting on that network and grab your password or get your data.” Instead, he advises traveling with “your own internet device or using your phone system.” It may be more expensive than the free WiFi option that pops up while you’re sipping coffee at BWI, but is definitely worth it.
2. Turn off Location Services on your phone and computer
“If you’re sending information about where you are at all times, people have that information about you,” Gumtow shares. “I don’t travel around with my device location on. People take advantage of that.” Keep your travel plans private, so that no opportunists become aware that your home is unoccupied while you’re hiking the Grand Canyon. You can adjust your social media settings so that only actual friends can see your adventures.
3. Use dual-authentication
Many cloud services such as Apple and Gmail offer dual-authentication in security options. Apple describes this as a login process that requires users “to provide two pieces of information” when using an unrecognized device, such as a hotel computer. In most cases, one is your password, and the other is a code that is texted to your cell phone. “Dual-authentication is almost a must,” Gumtow insists. Set your email preferences to require this when away from your computer, so you can lay back on your towel in Rehoboth knowing you’re the only one accessing your contacts.
4. Encrypt your information.
Gumtow advises travelers to encrypt their emails to avoid exposing sensitive information. He also suggests “keeping important files on an encrypted thumb drive that you keep with you” instead of carrying sensitive information around on a laptop. You can attach a thumb drive that requires a password to your keychain, and lose the extra weight of a computer while you’re corralling the family to get through airport security.
As for the devices you leave at home? “If it’s unplugged and turned off, you’re probably okay,” says Gumtow.
Just don’t drop your phone in the pool!