The pandemic is not over, but we are heading in the right direction. More people are gaining access to vaccinations, and COVID restrictions have loosened up, which means we are starting to see airports fill up with travelers again. That's good news, especially for cybercriminals who have only been sharpening their skills while they wait for us to return to some state of normalcy. While that normal may look different, cybersecurity is no doubt more important now than it was before the pandemic. Here's what to expect while traveling post-pandemic and how to prepare for it.
First of all, make sure you're booking travel from a reputable source. Always check that any website you're using has a little lock icon next to its URL. That means the site is using encryption to protect personal and financial information. Also, avoid ads that make it seem like you're getting some insanely good deal. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That's one of the oldest tricks in the hacker playbook. Last, as a rule of thumb, use websites that have 'https://' in the URL instead of 'http://.' The 's' is crucial here.
Something else to consider about booking security is travel rewards. Have you heard that travel rewards are a hot commodity? It may seem funny to think about rewards getting stolen, but it's a real thing. Hackers know that people watch their credit card statements much more closely than they do their rewards accounts. To protect yourself from this black market in the travel industry, shred all boarding passes, receipts, and other documents that your rewards number may be on.
Before You Pack
Before you start packing and definitely before you leave town, confirm that your smart devices have updated anti-virus protection. Make it a priority to update mobile software, backup contacts, photos, videos, and more with another device or cloud service. Furthermore, always keep devices locked with a passcode when not in use.
Additionally, disable auto-connect to Wi-Fi on your devices as well as Bluetooth. Keeping your Bluetooth feature on allows potential threat actors to connect to you and listen in on conversations.
At The Airport
You may have heard about 'vaccine passports' becoming necessary for travel. Well, that might not be just a rumor before long. The European Union is currently working on a Digital Green Certificate that would be required for travel within the EU and other surrounding countries. The certificate is likely to be digital, which will undoubtedly come with its own host of problems.
If you can help it, avoid using the free airport Wi-Fi. Unsecure connections like that are like keeping the front door open for attackers. Even airport charging stations come with their own risks. Hackers can use them to transfer malware onto your devices, and while the chances of that may be slim, it's still safer to use a wall outlet or even bring a power bank to charge your devices. Also, while an abandoned charger may seem like a sweet find, just leave it, as it could be bait. Hackers will intentionally plant chargers that contain harmful malware to infect whatever device you plug it into.
Most of us can't wait to post information about our travels as soon as we leave the house. We want to share every exciting thing we do with the world. Well, consider this to be free advertising for burglars. It's a much safer idea to save all your wonderful photos after you've arrived safely back home and left your property secure. Furthermore, disable location sharing to prevent attackers from learning that you are away from home.
As exciting as it is to explore new countries, keep in mind that the laws and regulations that govern cybersecurity in other countries are most likely different than those of your own country. That applies to all laws as well, so be prepared! Some countries require you to pay a traffic fine on the spot if you are visiting and receive a solicitation.
Keep Smart Devices On You
Never check bags at the airport that contain devices with personal or corporate data. These items tend to be more valuable, and you should keep a close eye on them. Remember, sometimes bags are misplaced, and you have a lot more at stake if your smart devices are lost or stolen vs. a suitcase of clothing. When traveling for business, keep in mind that mealtimes are a prime opportunity at conferences/tradeshows for attackers to check hotel rooms for unattended laptops. Don't forget to secure your devices.
Summer is known to be the busiest time for travel, and crowded airports/tourist attractions are prime targets for attackers. Take time to keep digital assets safe just as you would watch your wallet so you can enjoy traveling with peace of mind.
Written by Elizabeth Dasenbrock
Elizabeth Dasenbrock is a marketer/graphic designer whose mission has always been to creatively express stories and ideas. Her skill set allows her to convey concepts to particular audiences in a visually appealing way. At TechGuard, she works on the marketing team with a focus on graphic design. In her free time, she can usually be found working on personal creative projects, tending to her houseplants, or spending time with friends and family.