You’ve set up an out-of-office auto-responder and packed your stuff, but have you done all of your “homework” before you rush out the front door for that well-deserved time off?
You’re probably taking the vacation to unwind, but it is certainly not the time to put cybersecurity on the back burner. On the contrary, being outside the familiar environment of your home or office may expose you to unforeseen threats. Which is why you would be well-advised to be doubly cyber-vigilant, or else pesky insects may be the least of your worries during your time off. Indeed, a serious cyber-mishap can “spoil the fun” even beyond the duration of your vacation.
Let’s cut to the chase, then: what can you do ahead of your trip to take the sting out of a possible cyber-incident?
Consider preparing to become a bit of a “digital minimalist” for a while and leave (some of) your tech at home. Put differently, pare down only to the bare essentials that you cannot possibly do without. All those mesmerizing sights on your trip will be distracting enough anyway, won’t they?
This suggestion may raise an eyebrow, but the truth is that, by carrying only the most necessary of devices, you not only have fewer of them to lose but, even more importantly, you’re giving ne’er-do-wells fewer opportunities for compromising your digital assets and personal information.
Having less stuff to carry around and recharge may well be a welcome added benefit. The especially wary may want to consider using a temporary or throwaway device and ensure that it contains as little in the way of private information as possible.
Whatever device(s) you take with you, check that the operating system(s) and applications are updated for security fixes, especially the software with vulnerabilities that are known to be often exploited by cybercriminals. Ideally, it helps to have this never-ending routine automated whenever possible or at least to make sure that you receive timely notifications of a pending update.
Double-check that everything works as intended, so that you don’t end up stranded while on the go. When it comes to installing updates, especially the major ones, you want to limit the likelihood of remaining exposed or being forced to rely on an unreliable and unsafe public Wi-Fi connection or on your data plan.
Another way of reducing your attack surface is uninstalling outdated and unused software and shutting down no-longer used accounts. Needless to say, ensure that you use reputable anti-malware software and that it is up-to-date, too.
Keep intruders out
Regardless of the tech you carry, make sure its screen is protected with a first line of defense – such as a strong and unique password, passphrase, PIN code, or one of the available methods of biometric authentication such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition. By extension, set up the device to auto-lock its screen after being idle for as short a period as you can tolerate.
That’s not all, however. The odds of data falling into the wrong hands can be greatly lessened with full-disk encryption. This is generally available for various types of devices and platforms, be it as in-built solution (although not necessarily enabled out of the box) or as third-party software. Speaking of theft, you can also set up an anti-theft security feature that allows you to track your missing device and even wipe all of its contents remotely.
Back it up before you go-go
The loss of a wealth of personal data stored on a laptop or smartphone is bound to cause much more heartache than the loss of the device as such. Which is why the importance of having a safety net to fall back on when things do go awry with your data cannot be overstated.
With encrypted backups of your data stored in a secure offline location, you can also ultimately emerge unscathed from, say, a malware infestation, ransomware attack or, indeed, even a simple device malfunction.
Moderation is (the) key …
… not to your home, though. Rounding off our list is a tip that actually extends to the safety of your abode. Put simply, you may want to refrain from trumpeting all over social networking sites that you and your family will be away from home for any given number of days. The temptation to share can be hard to resist, but giving in to it may expose you to a physical intrusion into your home, which may jeopardize not only your backups or the very devices we suggested you leave at home.
Putting yourself in a criminal’s shoes may help: could the information you post publicly help an attacker hurt you? If so, you may want to think twice before posting it. Boundaries between virtual and actual worlds can be very blurry and even seemingly innocuous digital actions can have outsize real-life implications.
Have a great vacation!
Indeed, these basic precautions are unlikely to stop you from enjoying your vacation, but they can go a long way towards preventing you from having a miserable one (or homecoming). For more tips that can serve you well both during your travel and beyond, navigate to our recent article covering 11 basic cybersecurity tips.