According to the most recent report by the American Automobile Association, over 40 million Americans will travel this Fourth of July; and according to an informal office poll conducted here at First Foundation, close to 80% of you will take a trip at some point this summer. And that’s great – summer is a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends while recharging your batteries at the beach, the lake, the European village... Except there is one thing that now needs to be a part of everyone’s itinerary: cyber security safety. And it needs to begin before you zip up your suitcase. With all the modern technology conveniences like airline check-in via your smartphone, rental car confirmation on a digital signboard, and hotel reservations via an app, taking steps to keep your identity safe needs to be as normal as packing your toothbrush.
Summer is a busy season for cyber crooks seeking personal information from unaware travelers moving from one place to another, typically connected to portable devices. The criminals will hang out at airports, train stations, local cafes… anywhere they suspect they can target the traveler who might not be taking the same precautions as they do while at home. The good news is that you can protect yourself by following some simple, yet important, steps to secure your mobile devices and keep your private information private.
Update your device before you travel. Keeping you devices updated with the latest operating system helps to ensure a security flaw cannot be used to access your information (this is also true for desktop and laptop computers).
Use passwords or PINs on your mobile devices and be sure to set the auto lock. Should you lose your device, the information on the device is not easily accessible without the password or PIN.
Activate the remote wipe on your devices. iPhones have the feature in the Find My iPhone setting and Android can be activated with Allow remote lock and erase, both turned on. This allows you to remove personal data from your device should it be lost or stolen.
Install an anti-virus app on your mobile device. Malware (malicious software) is ubiquitous and can infect smartphones and tablets, then send information back to its creator.
Avoid public Wi-Fi. The convenience of connecting to the free Wi-Fi at airports, hotel lobbies and coffee shops could open you up to hackers using the same Wi-Fi.
Rethink posting to social media. Although you want your friends and followers to see your vacation photos, so will the rest of the world. This could also leave your home vulnerable to robbery.
Use privacy screen protectors. These will not only protect your mobile device from physical damage, it can prevent “shoulder surfing” when you use your device in public. Viewing your itinerary while waiting in line for your rental car, is a normal practice, yet the hacker standing behind you in line just got your name, address, phone number, and everything else about your vacation.
Treat your rental car like a device. Rental cars today are available with connective technology to your mobile device, making your driving experience much simpler and enjoyable by having your contacts and music available to you in the rented vehicle. Be sure to take the time to remove your information from the vehicle before you return it to the company, by removing your device from the paired devices list. If you want to be extra careful, look for a “clear private data” feature or a factory reset which will put the car’s device back to its original settings.
Use secure mobile banking apps (as opposed to websites). If you need to conduct banking while traveling, it is recommended that you use your bank’s mobile app instead of going through its website in a browser. For instance, clients of First Foundation Bank can use their mobile app to do most of what they would need while traveling, such as check account balance, pay bills, and transfer money. Typically a mobile app, given its security features and its streamlined functionality, makes for less of a target for the cyber criminals.
All in all, summer is a great season to pack your bags and explore new places, and taking the steps noted above can help keep unwanted cyber criminals from being a part of your vacation itinerary.