The time of vacations is in full swing for a long time, but it is still far from the end. Moreover, the velvet season will soon begin and many Asians will decide to travel to Europe to enjoy the beautiful views and warm weather. Fortunately, thanks to the visa-free regime, this has become much easier.
In general, vacation is a time when you want to forget about business, relax and enjoy life. And our gadgets play an important role here because with them this life becomes much easier. Book tickets and a hotel room “on the fly”, order a taxi, find interesting places on the map or on the Internet, talk with friends and relatives or pay in a store without taking out your wallet. Separately, it is worth mentioning those who like to work on vacation (which means they have access not only to personal data but also to company data). All this can be easily done if you have a smartphone at hand.
Only a smartphone and a laptop can be hacked and steal your data, money, or even identity. And in our digital age, this is much easier than you might think. Most often this happens when transmitting information on the network: when we receive or send e-mail, communicate in instant messengers, browse sites, or open applications in which our data is entered. In the first place in the list of unsafe types of wireless communication is Wi-Fi, right behind it is NFC technology, which is increasingly appearing in new devices. And even Bluetooth or simple scanning of a QR code with a camera can be dangerous in some cases. What can we say about connecting an unknown flash drive to a laptop?
So before you leave, you need to figure out when you need to be careful and how you can protect your data from the hassles that will turn a pleasant vacation into a real nightmare.
How to keep yourself safe when connected to Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi has long become one of the main ways to access the network. Access points are everywhere: at airports, buses, restaurants, and cafes, in your hotel room, and in almost every shopping center. But how do you preserve your data while connecting to it?
First, update your gadget’s firmware to the most recent version before leaving. At the same time, the update for the security system is also downloaded, which immediately reduces the risk of encountering a hack.
Disable automatic connection of the device to the nearest open network. It will be better and safer if you decide for yourself which access points and when to connect your gadget while traveling.
Before connecting to Wi-Fi in a public place, turn off automatic data syncing and file transfer, such as Google Photos. You don’t want someone to copy them while syncing, do you?
Pay attention to the little things to spot fake Wi-Fi hotspots masquerading as real ones. Check the addresses (URLs) of pages for strange errors in the spelling of the address or changes in its format, so as not to accidentally go to a fake site. This is especially true of the pages on which you pay for purchases or transfer funds: always check for the presence of a “lock” that confirms the security of the connection and the presence of https: // in the address.
Don’t put too much trust in Wi-Fi in your hotel. The presence of a password does not mean that the transmitted data is really well encrypted because you do not know how the local IT specialist set up the point. Most often, such points use the WEP algorithm, which hackers can easily crack.
If there are no available Wi-Fi networks, do not rush to use your smartphone as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. In public places, it is better not to do this at all, because it can be hacked. And even in a relatively quiet and safe place, it is worth taking precautions. At a minimum, you need to change or hide the name (SSID) of your network, set a long and complex password, and change WEP to WPA2 in the WEP settings. Naturally, for all this to work, you first need to make sure that your tariff plan supports data transfer abroad and it won’t cost you too much.
When connecting to open Wi-Fi networks, it is better to use virtual private networks, the so-called VPNs. So your data will be encrypted in transit, and no one can intercept and copy it. If you do not have a VPN application, in public places it is better not to go to sites where you have to enter your username and password, especially sites with important data for you or with access to your accounts. You don’t want them to be received by the inconspicuous guy in the corner who is just sitting at his laptop … and may very well be a hacker.
Use built-in browsers to help block access to sites with malicious content and prevent any “unnecessary” applications and files from getting to your device.
It is highly recommended to store all passwords for your accounts in a dedicated password manager. There they are stored in encrypted form, and the dispatcher himself most often requires all passwords to be sufficiently complex and long. In addition, all accounts should be protected with two-factor authentication, so that to access them you need to enter not only a password but also a special code that will only come to your smartphone.
Maximum protection can be achieved by encrypting all data on your smartphone in advance using built-in functions or a special application, but before that, you should familiarize yourself with the list of countries that prohibit the use of such software on their territory.
If you have not done so already, be sure to install an antivirus on your smartphone or tablet, which will protect it from fake applications and viruses while traveling and will completely block access to information or even erase it if you lose the device itself.
Naturally, all of these tips apply to laptops as well.
USB, QR codes, NFC and Bluetooth
Of course, most often “surprises” while traveling should come from Wi-Fi networks, but other connection methods may well become a source of trouble:
Whenever possible, use only your own chargers. In public places, you may encounter a scam called juice-jacking. If you charge gadgets with chargers modified by an intruder, a special application is downloaded to your smartphone or tablet, which copies all data from it via USB in the background. And more about USB: do not trust strangers who ask to “share” the taken photos or offer to download some files from their flash drive. Thus, you can get a whole set of different viruses or malware to steal your data.
Be wary of QR codes. A flyer left on the hood of your rented car in the parking lot, a sticker with a code neatly glued to an advertisement for a product, and even cards for contactless payment for goods in a store can send you to a fake site with malware or a virus.
Do not put your smartphone with the NFC enabled for Android Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay in your pocket. A hacker with an appropriate reader could “accidentally” run into you in the crowd and install malware on your smartphone. You should also be careful about posters with unprotected external NFC chips, counting which you can, for example, see a movie trailer. They could easily have been replaced with a much less secure chip. ATMs with NFC support are also often “improved” by attackers who add their modules there and can read your data and withdraw funds from your bank account.
Advice for the most careful: do not turn on Bluetooth in public places if you do not need it right now to connect a keyboard, mouse or smart watch to the gadget. Dedicated devices can use Bluetooth to control your gadget or download malware to it. This is a fairly rare case, but it cannot be completely ruled out. In addition, disabling Bluetooth saves battery power.