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5 Spring Break Security Tips

What to Know Before You Travel

Spring Break

You’ve worked hard and you’ve earned your vacation. And in a perfect world, you could simply leave your device at home and forget about reality. But who are we kidding anyway?

That’s why we’ve put together these 5 simple travel tips to help you keep your vacation free of identity thieves and infected devices (we suggest printing out the checklist at the end of this article as well):

1. Watch where you WiFi

It can be tempting to take advantage of free WiFi access points in airports, hotels, or in cafes, but resist the urge to use those connections to do anything other than browse for a map or train schedule.

Unsecured wireless connections – such as the open ones that some businesses provide as a service – can also leave you vulnerable to wireless snooping of your logins, email messages, or instant messages by other travelers or guests. The same can be said for untrusted computers in hotel business centers or cybercafes, which are magnets for data-stealing malware.

If the connection doesn’t ask you to provide a WPA key, assume the connection is not secure, and treat it as such. If you must use a free wireless connection, turn off any programs that automatically connect to the Internet (such as email clients or file-sharing tools) before you hook up, and try to access sites by typing "https" at the beginning of the URL.

Lastly, please don’t use the untrustworthy PC in the hotel lobby to do anything more private than print your boarding pass to get home.

2. Set up automatic bill-pay for your regular bills before you leave

Being able to pay all of your bills online may leave you complacent about doing so in a public place, but you really shouldn’t be logging into your bank and cutting electronic checks for your utility bills while you’re on the road. Most banks offer free automatic bill payment services. Take advantage of them if they're available, so you don't miss a monthly charge.

If, for some reason, you can’t set up automatic bill payment, try paying off your bills just before you leave, or pay more than the monthly total if you’ll still be travelling during the end of your next billing cycle.

If you must pay a bill online while you're on vacation, create a temporary password and change it as soon as you return home. (Click here for help with passwords)

3. Back up everything on any device you intend to bring

Laptops aren’t the only data-rich devices we carry around anymore. Increasingly, we’re carrying sensitive data on our MP3 players, portable hard drives and thumbdrives, and smartphones (and the tiny memory cards inside of them), simply because it's convenient to do so.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes and you realize you’ve left your iPhone in a taxi in another state (or worse, another country). Back up everything, as if you might never see the device again, before you hit the road.

You should also password protect your devices. If you have a laptop, set up a login to access your desktop. If you have a mobile device, set up your access code. It may also be a good idea to install an app that remotely wipes your data–just in case your device grows legs and wanders off.

4. Don't post your vacation plans on your social networks

It may seem fun to brag to friends and acquaintances on social networks about your upcoming trip to a beach-party paradise, but you might want to resist the temptation to call too much attention to the fact that you’re leaving behind an empty, unattended apartment or house for weeks at a time.

Burglars have already begun to turn to Facebook and Twitter to find homes that may be vacant during a holiday absence. Don’t make their job any easier for them by giving them your travel itinerary. Of course, if you feel compelled to post vacation snaps on the road, modify your privacy settings so only your closest friends see those notifications. At least then you’ll have a starting point for the police when they begin investigating the burglary of your home.

And speaking of social networks, it’s a best practice to copy and paste links instead of clicking on social sharing icons while you’re on vacation. Using these icons opens the risk of likejacking or clickjacking scams that can gain access to your accounts from weaknesses in your Internet browser.

5. Keep your devices on your person at all times

If you absolutely must bring along a laptop, plan on keeping the laptop with you at all times, or at the very least locking it in a room safe (or in the hotel’s safe, if there isn’t one in your room) if you don’t want to get sand in the DVD drive.

Spring Break Security Checklist

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