It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere, and many of you are preparing for the upcoming holidays. Whether you prepare to travel with a laptop, smartphone, iPad, or all of the above, you should be aware of the risks. You may get hacked, have your credit card info and personal identity stolen unless you protect yourself. Learn how to keep your laptop secure.
The good news is that you can easily do that by following a set of simple steps:
1. Make sure your software is up-to-date.
This is the first line of defense. Before every trip, it’s a good idea to check on the manufacturer website (or search Google) for the latest updates. Don’t miss the updates of your antivirus software and your browser. Most of the malicious attacks come from the web.
2. Don’t mess with the security settings.
Most of the default browser settings are fairly secure out of the box. It is recommended not to change them unless you know what you are doing.
3. Use strong passwords.
It’s always recommended to use some combination of letters, numbers and/or special characters of 8 characters or more as your passwords. It may also be a good idea to change your passwords (for the sites you browsed while traveling) after you are back home.
4. Don’t use unencrypted public wireless networks.
Such networks require no authentication or password to log into, so anyone can access them, including the bad guys.
On the other hand, encrypted networks are those that require an ID or password for access. These networks have two different types of security: WEP (wired equivalent privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi protected access); the second is most secure. Even encrypted networks are not 100% secure so be cautious about the sorts of things you do on such networks.
Important! Paying to access a Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean it’s secure. Access fees do not equal security. Just because you pay a fee to access a Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean that the network is secure.
5. Https URLs are safer (but not foolproof).
When you access a site where you are sharing personal information, like your credit card number, make sure that you’re doing so securely. The “s” in https means that you’re connected to the site via the Secure Socket Layer (SSL). This means that all data transmitted to that particular Website over the Internet is encrypted.
SSL is not 100% foolproof though, but the malicious attacks are quite rare on https secured sites. In my opinion, you can use them with confidence.
6. Turn off cookies and autofill.
If your browser automatically enters passwords and login information into websites you visit frequently, turn that feature off. It’s convenient, but it can also be a privacy threat. You can turn the feature on when you get back home.
7. Use VPN.
It is also recommended to use a VPN service while traveling in order to keep your laptop secure. A VPN provides secure access and allows you to get online behind a secure layer that protects your information.
VPN services are also convenient if you are traveling in countries where the access to certain sites is blocked (take for example Turkey where you are not allowed to access YouTube) or if you want to access sites that are only accessible for certain users like BBC iPlayer (for UK users) or Hulu (for US users).
To sum up, it’s not difficult to keep your laptop secure or mobile device while traveling. If you take the above listed basic measures you’ll be safe and the chances to get hacked are slim.