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Tech Bytes: Stay safe digitally on summer vacation

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Summer vacation is an opportunity to leave our worries – but not our cell phones – behind. Cell phones are vacation essentials, so it’s important to stay safe digitally while traveling.

“You’re relaxed and you’re away from work, and it’s easy to forget about all of the best practices we are more used to thinking about when we’re at work in front of our computer – where to go, where not to go, how to stay safe,” says John Joyce, an owner at CRS Technology Consultants. “When you’re in that vacation mindset, really you don’t want to think about anything else other than relaxation. The problem is, the bad guys know that and they’re going to try to take advantage of you letting your guard down and not protecting you, your devices and your information.”

John outlined tips to stay safe digitally while on summer vacation during a June 6, 2022, Tech Bytes segment on ABC7.

VIEW MORE: Tech Talk: Tips for staying safe digitally while traveling this summer

Below is a recap of that interview:

Cell Phone Safety

Smartphones are the key to our digital lives. We bring them everywhere, including vacation.

A generation ago, cell phones were primarily used to make phone calls. Today’s cell phones contain everything of value: emails, family photos, texts, phone numbers, banking information, investment accounts, social media profiles, insurance details and more.

“Devices are made to be easy to use, but by nature, that also makes them a little less safe,” John says.

As such, we should protect cell phones like we would our wallet or car keys. Beyond simply a passcode, John encourages the use of dual- or multi-factor authentication. That’s when an automated program sends a six-digit code before you’re able to access any apps or programs.

“Even if someone is in possession of your phone, they can’t necessarily just walk right into one of your applications and steal your information,” John says.

Other cell phone safety tips for travelers include:

  • Avoid pairing a phone’s Bluetooth with a rental car. If you do, purge the data before returning the vehicle.
  • Charge your phone through an electrical outlet rather than a USB port. You never know what’s behind the wall.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot or Bluetooth when not using it. This reduces the likelihood of having data exposed to others.
  • Do not store credit cards or driver’s license inside cell phone case. Criminals can swipe your card within seconds, whereas it may take a few minutes to access data on a cell phone.

Public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi is a convenience when traveling. However, joining an open network also poses digital safety risks.

Cybercriminals can create an open Wi-Fi network that impersonates a public brand simply by naming it something that sounds familiar.

“It’s nothing to just set up a network and name it what you would think is something else,” John says. “You join it thinking you’re on a trusted network, and now your information is out in the open.”

John recommends an extra security step prior to connecting with any public Wi-Fi.

“In those situations, connect to a VPN or some other kind of security service,” John says. “Encrypt your data so that even if they intercept it, it’s useless to them.”

Low-tech criminals are also on the prowl looking for victims. It’s best to avoid using laptops, tablets and cell phones in public places where someone can see your screen.

“Glancing over someone’s shoulder is still a perfectly legitimate, or illegitimate, way to steal someone’s information,” John says.

Social Media Safety

One of John’s final points to stay safe digitally relates to social media. All social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram, are filled with users’ vacation photos, which often are posted while they’re still on vacation.

“We’re all excited to be on vacation and you want to tell the world about it. That’s great, share it with your family and friends, but do so when you get home,” John says. “It’s the old adage, if someone is looking to break into your house, they’re looking to do so when you’re not home. There is no more obvious indicator than if they know I’m in Hawaii right now.”

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