The Most Important Things to Know About Internet Safety While Traveling

My cousin is on his way to Germany for a week and asked for some advice on being “cyber safe” while there. In other words, how can he stay connected with people and email but not become a victim of malicious software? Here are a few tips:

– Assume that every public computer everywhere – whether at an airport, cybercafé or the hotel business center – is infected with malware and will record your every keystroke. For this reason it’s best to avoid using public computers if you can. That said, googling “the word for hospital in Arabic“ or “toxicity of tarantulas” is pretty harmless. Bouncing over to check gmail, on the other hand, can be a huge mistake. Particularly if you use your gmail password anywhere else (because once a password/user name combination is discovered by criminals, it can be easily and automatically plugged into thousands of other websites to see if it works).  Or, if you use gmail to receive account statements, internet orders or banking validation codes. Once cybercriminals hack your account, they will sift through emails seeking these things.
 – If your kids like to play computer games, and they use the PCs at the hotel do to it, remind them as well: it’s best not to check or send personal email from those machines. If they insist on doing so, at least remind them to be sure to log out when they are finished.
– Before you leave the US, consider setting new passwords for sites you will be using and then change them again when you return.
– Whenever possible, use only the most “exclusive” and secured wifi services available. That means, the routers which require passwords or user-specific details (like a room number and name). In particular, if you have a choice between the hotel wifi (many charge a small fee or at least a password) and a wifi in a large public area which requires no password, there are likely to be fewer criminals on the secure network. There are two reasons for this: first, there are always more criminals where you have more people, and second because in open networks each device is only identified by a generic, temporarily assigned IP address so there’s no way for cyber sleuths to determine who exactly was on the network (for example, stealing data) even if we learn later that a certain crime was committed on a specific day and at a specific time.  

A final tip: don’t forget that 80% of convicted burglars admitted to using social websites to scout potential victims.  It’s safer to post your diary of the trip after you return, and children should be reminded of the same.  If you can’t help sharing the blow-by-blow, at least include regular references to your SEAL team buddy and his Rottweilers who will be housesitting while you’re away.  Have safe travels and if you’re interested in more details on how exactly data is stolen from a wireless network, see this Deeper Dive.  




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One Response to “The Most Important Things to Know About Internet Safety While Traveling”

  1. Deb Atwood says:

    Great post! Thanks for the traveling tips just in time for the holidays.

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