Staying cyber safe on vacation

With summer in full swing, it's important to consider some basic safety steps that go beyond packing sun screen and a GPS for road trips. 

It's time to talk summer cyber safety. Here's our top five vacation cybersecurity tips. 

Be careful with social media information

It can be all too tempting to share your exciting vacation plans or details with friends and family on Facebook or show off the latest great photos you've taken while on a trip on social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram. 

But posting this information could put your home - and your workplace - at risk. Petty thieves are increasingly using social media to troll for potential targets for home robberies.

More sophisticated cyber criminals can and will use your vacation information in elaborate scams that can sometimes target your friends and family. This scams often make it look like you've been robbed and desperately need a money transfer to get home or to pay for medical care. 

More often, vacation information can be used to execute business fraud attempts and to make an impersonation of your account seem more legitimate. For example, if you're involved in your organization's financial approval processes, your information could be used to to try and trick your co-workers into executing fraudulent wire or account transfers. For example:

The information can also be turned against you through tailored phishing e-mails. If an attacker knew you  thoroughly enjoyed your recent trip to the Grand Canyon and the hotel you stayed at because you shared it on Twitter and posted a glowing review on the hotel site, they could then send you fake offers for a free next stay that would be designed to get you to click on a link in an attempt to infect your device with malware. 

Make sure to talk to any kids or teens in your family about being careful about posting vacation plans. 

lock down your network and turn off devices

If you plan on being away for more than a few days, considering turning off your Wi-Fi access in your home. This will help prevent local attackers from trying to hijack your network to commit other crimes or to try and gain access to your devices. 

Be wary of free Wi-Fi and shared computers

While travelling, it can be tempting to use free hotel, cafe, restaurant or other locations Wi-Fi or shared computers in a hotel. While using these Wi-Fi access points or shared computers to search Google or Bing for public information about local sightseeing or to find places to shop or eat, avoid doing sensitive communications such as banking, accessing social media or e-mail or confidential work information. 

If you need to access sensitive information and accounts, make sure you use a VPN. TechRadar has a recently published report on the Top VPN services

Avoid unknown portable Devices

It can be tempting to pick up a USB key or mobile device you find laying around a parking lot, hotel lobby, mall, or restaurant. You may have the best intentions of trying to find out who the owner is and getting it back to them. 

Don't. 

USB keys in particular can be used to infect devices with malware, steal information or even destroy devices. They may be placed their by cyber criminals or by vandals just looking to cause havoc. Reporting any found USB keys to the nearest establishment. 

Use a travel credit card 

If at all possible, you should have a separate, lower balance credit card just for travelling that you'll use at gas stations, restaurants, hotels, tourist sites or automated teller machines. You never know when the point-of-sale systems at stores have been compromised by cyber thieves or if criminals have installed skimmers on ATMs.

A travel credit card can save you several headaches that can come from having a credit card compromised including have to update any pre-authorized payments or online payments you have associated with a regular card. It can also help you narrow down when and where you card may have been compromised.  

Having a lower balance on the card can reduce any stress associated while your financial institution investigates and resolves any unauthorized transactions. 

David Shipley is the CEO and Co-Founder of Beauceron Security Inc., a New Brunswick-based cybersecurity software firm with clients across North America. David is a certified information security manager and frequently writes and speaks about cybersecurity issues across North America.