With summer here and coming off a lockdown, people are anxious to get out and go somewhere. Some families will fly to their vacation destination while others plan on driving – either their personal vehicle or renting an RV. Regardless of how you are going to travel, know that traveling creates some unique personal cybersecurity issues with increased opportunities for unauthorized access to your personal identity, information, and data.

Phishing For Your Personal Data is on the Rise

As a matter of fact, during the last few pandemic weeks, email phishing from scammers posing as charitable organizations from the IRS or healthcare organizations helping COVID-19 patients is up 6,000%. This increases the opportunity of unscrupulous people getting you to click on an email that sounds legitimate when in reality all the sender wants to do is get ahold of your personal data. While your home or work internet connection might be secure, accessing through public network connections or hotspots greatly increases your risk of someone stealing your personal information. Here are some important tips to keep your information safe while traveling. 

Personal Cybersecurity Checks to Make Before You Travel

  • Keep device operating systems, anti-virus and malware programs, and software updated. Companies are constantly updating their operating systems and software programs as security issues are brought to their attention. Constant updating makes it harder for cyber criminals to get to your information when you access the internet from a public network or hotspot. The easiest way to do this is to turn on your device’s automatic update feature.
  • Never click on links within an email. If the links are cloaked, they can take you to sites other than what are listed. If you really want to go to that site, copy down the URL and manually type it into your device’s browser.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). The additional level of access on accounts requiring login, such as banking, email, and social media ensures you are the only person that can access your accounts.
  • Back up your information before leaving. Store the back up file in a place where you can access at a trusted cloud service. That way, in a worst-case scenario, you can reset your device back to the factory settings and download your off-site stored information. 

Personal Cybersecurity to Track While you Are Traveling

  • Turn off wireless or Bluetooth automatic connect settings. Having this feature turned on greatly increases your risk for cyber criminals to access your device and the information in it. 
  • Pay bills that will be due while you are gone before you go. Even with protection in place, minimize access to sites containing your sensitive information via public (and usually unsecure) network access points and hotspots.  
  • Never leave your device unattended – physically or electronically. Most devices can be set to automatically lock after a period of nonuse or get into the habit of manually locking it once finished using it. And never leave your device out of your sight or control. It only takes a second for someone to grab your device and leave the area.
  • When refueling, look for the seal. Many fuel stations put a seal on their credit card readers at the pumps which means the pump does not contain a data skimmer. If the seal is broken, do not use your credit card to pay at the pump. Either go inside and pay with your credit card or pay with cash.

It’s All About Risk Reduction

Your personal identity and information is currently worth around $300 on illegal markets. Once your stolen information is in the wrong hands, it can create immeasurable havoc on your personal life. Sometimes, it takes weeks to even months to get the damage undone and your personal life back in order. While online identity theft can never be fully mitigated down to zero, you can enjoy your vacation more knowing that you have done the best you can to reduce the risk of a personal cybersecurity attack.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.