08/04/2016 10:24 EDT | Updated 08/04/2016 11:59 EDT

How To Protect Your Devices And Personal Info While Travelling

Pam McLean via Getty Images
Sant'Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navona.

During a vacation, you're probably not thinking about how you can ensure your personal information and electronic devices are cyber-secure. After all, the point of vacation is to unwind. That being said, your devices and information can actually become more vulnerable when you travel because you're doing things outside of your normal technology routine.

You might connect to an unknown Wi-Fi network in a café, or maybe you had too much fun one night and now you can't locate your smartphone. Fear not though, there are simple ways to protect you and your family.

Public Wi-Fi

It's tempting to grab a quick connection through an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot in a café, airport, library or the like. After all, it's right there, it's convenient (doesn't require that complicated security key) and, best of all, it's free.

But before you make that connection, stop and think. No security key more than likely means that you'll be sending information in "clear text." That translates to "un-encrypted" and means that anyone else who is connected to that hotspot and equipped with a few simple hacking tools can intercept and read everything you send. Here are three tips to protect yourself from this:

  1. Online banking? Don't risk it.

    Above all, never, ever use unsecured Wi-Fi to access a banking site. Anyone else connected to that network with the right tools can read your log-in and password (sometimes even if the banking site itself is secure), grab control of your account and start moving your money out. If you need to do a bank transaction while travelling and can't find a secure connection, use the bank's toll-free number and call instead.

  2. Never share with strangers.

    First of all, make sure any file-sharing that might be turned on is disabled. When you connect to any public Wi-Fi network, whether it's secured or not, you're sharing that network with everyone else who's connected to it. Without some protections in place, anyone else could open a connection to your machine. Second, always use a software firewall from an established IT Security company whenever you use public Wi-Fi.

  3. Update your devices.

    Before you hit the road, make sure that your laptop and your mobile devices are running a fully updated operating system, have the latest software installed and are protected with a reputable security solution. Out-of-date software is an easy way for a hacker to find a vulnerability on your system or device. However, if the hotel internet appears to ask you to update software in order to connect, immediately disconnect and inform the person at the front desk or the owner of the place of this.

These concerns about public access points apply every bit as much when you're in your own hometown. But, when you're travelling and looking for a way to connect, you're much more likely to be tempted by the convenience to use them in an unsecure way. And the bad guys know it.

A Lost or Stolen Device

Your personal electronic devices are valuable -- not just the device itself, but the data it contains too. If it's lost or stolen, it's sure to ruin your vacation, and you might also lose your identity to a thief. Take these few extra precautions and don't let a thief steal your fun:

  • You've heard this before but you need to secure your phone with a strong password PIN, or use the fingerprint lock.
  • Preserve any photos, work data or important information on your phone by backing it up before you leave. In the event that you are a victim of an attack like ransomware, you'll be able to retrieve your information easily without paying up.
  • Print out and carry copies of travel documents, confirmations and important phone numbers you might need while travelling so you can continue your vacation -- or get home
  • Keep your devices close by and in sight at all times -- thieves prey on inattentive travellers and, if you let yourself get distracted by your surroundings or the fun you're having, they'll swoop in.
  • Don't carry your phone around in your hand unless you're actually using it; keep it secure in your pocket or a small bag that you can access quickly for photo opportunities.
  • Don't put devices in your checked baggage or leave them unattended in your hotel room -- and if your room has a safe, use it.
  • If you want to be extra safe, there are products that let you locate, track and lock your device if it's lost or stolen, let you send a message to whoever found it, and improve your chance of recovery. You can even erase data on your device remotely to keep a thief who's stolen your device from prying open the contents. It's incredibly affordable for the protection it provides.

At ESET, we're giving away protected tech gear for your next trip, so you don't have to worry about unsecure Wi-Fi or online threats. Enter the #AllPacked summer contest for your chance to win a MacBook laptop and cybersecurity protection.

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