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  • Writer's pictureITAL Leadership Team

Spring Break x Cybersecurity Protections

Protecting myself on spring break is one of the last things to cross my mind. I am busy thinking about if I have my passport or if I remembered my toothbrush. However, protection should be a priority before you jet, during your trip, and after traveling to any destination. Scams and threat actors are everywhere. These people can phish and smish you through promotional deals, flight scams, Wi-Fi networks, and more. Following are key areas to educate yourself in with tips to keep your identity safe while traveling.

1. Watch out for scams Travel scams come in a variety of ways that can compromise your identity. Most threat actors post the “best” deals that will get people roped into spending less money. One of the most common ways this can be seen is through discounted airlines or fraudulent rental homes. Rental homes can be posted as beautiful abodes on the beach, while in reality, you could be getting a heavy charge to your credit card with no rental at all. There are many ways to make sure that you are not getting phished. One of the first ways to protect yourself is by using websites that are legitimate. For example, going through major airfare companies such as Delta or Sun Country. This can also be accomplished by reading reviews, getting recommendations from family and friends, or calling the company itself to verify credibility. The feeling of ‘too good to be true’ is a very trusty guide before typing in your credit card number.

2. Protect your physical devices

Keeping track of your personal devices and technology may seem like a no-brainer when you are traveling, however, there are still some tips and tricks to make sure you are extra safe. First, don’t leave your devices unattended or out of sight. Whether that be at airport charging stations, hanging from your luggage or out your back pocket, make sure to always be aware of your personal devices. It only takes one second for someone to snatch them and walk away. An easy step to avoid this is to stow them inside your carry on luggage, crossbody pouch or wallet. An extra precaution I take when traveling is putting my passport, ID, laptop, and other valuables in a safe every time I leave my hotel room or rental home. Yet, many people don’t know that hotels can override your code in order to get into it if you need help. If they can override the safe's code while you are there, they can override this code while you are absent. An easy way to not have to worry about this is using an extra lock on your safe. There are also mini portable travel safes, in varying sizes and styles, as well as extra door locks to provide you with ease of mind while you are out enjoying your vacation.

3. Avoid auto-connecting

Auto-connections come in many different forms. This can be auto-connecting to Bluetooth speakers, Wi-Fi, or other near field communicators such as airdrop/nearby share or hotspots. These are excellent ways for someone to access your personal identity and create identity fraud. Auto connecting to Wi-Fi is very easy and happens more than we may notice. If we have auto-connect turned on, our phones will automatically search for Wi-Fi networks to connect to. They could potentially connect to a hacker's network, creating a never ending amount of information for the hacker to inspect. This could happen at airports, hotels, rental houses, etc. Even connecting to a coffee shop or work space with public Wi-Fi is risky. Not only can this happen on vacation, but it can happen anywhere, whether international or domestic.

Making sure you connect to a router that is safe is vital. Connecting to a router that is compromised can result in cybercriminals eavesdropping on your conversations, stealing credit card information, getting into online banking applications, and more. Avoiding public networks should be done as much as possible. An easy way to prevent access to malicious hackers is through a VPN, or, virtual private network. VPNs provide a safe way to use public Wi-Fi while keeping your network secure.

4. Post with care Posting on social media while traveling can be fun and exciting. Updating followers as to which restaurant you are at or the adventurous excursion you are on can seem harmless, however, pictures have a GPS-based geotag that is in the photograph's metadata. This can tell people where the photo was taken, when it was taken, and the device it was taken on. Hackers, thieves, or people with nefarious intentions can find your location and/or realize that you are away from home. This could prompt opportunity for a physical break-in, or worse. Turning off your Snapchat, Insta, and FaceBook location sharing as well as other tracking settings across all platforms is something that should be done in advance. In the same vein, if your socials aren't set to private, beware of notifying online friends and bad actors alike as to the dates you'll be away.

Tagging photos in real-time of those you are with on vacation reveals their current location as well, making them susceptible to dangers such as burglaries. Another common post that is often seen on social media is pictures of boarding passes, tickets, and passports when gearing up for a voyage. To a hacker, images of these barcodes makes for easy access to your itinerary, seat selection, reservations, airline application, and other booking information. This creates a slippery slope toward further identity theft. The key to bypassing these threats is waiting until you return home before posting pictures and tagging others on social media platforms.

The different ways to protect yourself while traveling are vast and I hope the tips shared here will help you to be more aware of the cybersecurity issues that can arise while traveling. Tune in to our recent podcast episode on The Audit to hear these scenarios and many more in greater depth. Safe travels!

By: Natalie Stang


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