#HowTo: Stay Cyber-Secure This Summer

Summer has well and truly arrived; the warm weather has picked up, and many of us are jetting around the globe for much-anticipated get-aways. But with some of us going abroad for the first time since the pandemic broke out in early 2020, we may be a bit rusty when it comes to our holiday preparations. 

For example, our cyber hygiene is often overlooked while on holiday, with our minds otherwise preoccupied by the need to stay connected with friends and family. As always with digital communication, security concerns and safe practices should be followed. 

With cyber-criminals more prolific than ever, it's increasingly important that holiday-goers remain vigilant and know how best to protect themselves abroad. So, while relaxing on vacation is important, you should not let your guard down too much. Remember, cyber-criminals don't take vacations!

Here are some safe practices that should be followed while on holiday to help keep your communications and digital identity safe as you stay connected, whether at the airport, on the beach or even on a boat!

  1. Be wary of public WiFi networks – In this day and age, publicly-available WiFi networks are commonplace and can be found in most bars, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls across the globe. Although we increasingly rely on WiFi to navigate, translate and stay connected with loved ones at home, countless insecure networks could pose a security risk. Be wary of these, and make sure your devices do not auto-connect to them – opt for a manual setting on your phone instead.
  2. Use a VPN to connect – If you need to connect to an open, potentially insecure WiFi source when out and about, use a VPN app. Using a private network will encrypt and secure your connection when surfing the internet, preventing cyber-criminals from phishing your personal data or credentials.
  3. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) – Before logging into any of your accounts abroad, like when checking your holiday spending on your banking apps, make sure you have enabled 2FA or MFA. This authentication method will require two or more forms of verification to gain access, thereby minimizing the chance for cyber-criminals to access your accounts.
  4. Update your devices' anti-virus software – Making sure that your anti-virus software is up to scratch is a good habit to get into generally, but it's certainly worthwhile doing so before a holiday – it's one less thing to worry about when you're there! This way, you can give your devices the best protection against cyber-attacks and malware.
  5. Turn off your Bluetooth – Like WiFi, Bluetooth is another way cyber-criminals can tap into your phone and compromise your device. Malicious actors can target your sensitive information and steal data by exploiting this network, so ensure it's turned off unless absolutely necessary.
  6. Password protect your device – Tourists are a pickpocket's dream, and the physical theft of your devices while abroad is at heightened risk. Not only would this be a monetary loss, but the risk of your accounts and private information being accessed is arguably an even scarier prospect. If your device were to be stolen, ensure you've got all the most robust safeguards in place to prevent thieves from gaining easy access. Practice good password hygiene and update all your key passwords before you go away. Additionally, use anti-theft software to add another layer of security.
  7. Be wary of public devices – Internet cafes or other devices you can access in your hotel or a library may not have sufficient cybersecurity or anti-virus software installed. If you need to use publicly available computers, avoid logging into personal accounts if possible, and don't forget to log out and clear the browser history. Cyber-criminals can loiter on these networks, waiting to retrieve your sensitive details.
  8. Be conscious of your surroundings – It's easy to let your guard down and relax when at the beach, on a boat or exploring new places, but you need to keep your wits about you. Thieves love an unsuspecting tourist! Never leave your devices unattended at the beach when you go for a dip or at a restaurant when you head to the bar or bathroom. Be mindful of your surroundings and always keep your devices on you.
  9. Go minimal and disconnect – If possible, avoid bringing all your devices on holiday, especially those carrying sensitive files or important documents, and minimize your time online entirely where able (you are trying to switch off at the end of the day!). The fewer devices and sources available to exploit, the lesser the chance of a cyber-criminal seeing an opportunity to attack. If you need to bring such devices with you, ensure you lock them away in your hotel room's safe to secure them while you're out and about.

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