If you spend time working from the road, or traveling for personal pleasure, keeping your devices and sensitive information secure from hackers, thieves, and snoopers should be a top priority. We rely on laptops, tablets, and smart devices to manage our affairs in and out of the office, making them a target for criminals who may not be as concerned about the value of the device itself as they are the data they contain.
In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are 15 handy tips for keeping your personal data private and your sensitive information secure.
- Enable PIN/Biometric/Multi-Factor Authentication Access – This is cybersecurity 101, but many people disable password access to their devices for convenience.
- Avoid Unknown Free WiFi Hotspots – Hackers understand the lure of free wifi and will set up fake hotspots in popular gathering places, like hotels, coffee shops, and transportation centers to snoop on your activity and steal information, including passwords.
- Disable WiFi Autoconnect – If your phone or laptop is set up to automatically search for and connect to available wifi, disable that feature. You never know what is behind that random hotspot (see tip #2).
- Disable Bluetooth Sharing – Another feature that is convenient around the home or office, but asking for trouble on the road. Never connect to another device unless you are certain it is safe.
- Disable/Minimize Location Sharing – Location sharing is handy for navigating in unfamiliar environments, but it can also be a beacon letting hackers know where you are, what you’re doing, and establish a pattern of activity that could put you at risk.
- Use Anti-Virus Software – If you aren’t using anti virus software, there’s no excuse not to do it–now! There are plenty of good, free, products out there for personal use. If you do use AV, make sure it is up-to-date.
- Update Your Operating System and Applications – Unpatched OSes and apps are prime targets for hackers who know how to take advantage of every crack in your device’s armor. My making sure your software is updated, you minimize the risk of becoming a victim.
- Update Passwords Before and after You Travel – As a safeguard against using a compromised password, when you’ve been on the road for an extended period (especially overseas) change your passwords before and after you travel. A password manager will help you make this a regular practice.
- Use a Virtual Private Network – Staying disconnected is usually not an option when on the road, and even legitimate networks can be compromised, so use a VPN to keep your communications secure from snoops.
- Physical Vigilance – An unattended laptop or smart device is a tempting target. Never leave your computers out of sight. If you must leave devices in a hotel room, keep them locked in your room safe. In a vehicle, lock them in the trunk or out of view. And don’t keep your smart phone in a back pocket where a pickpocket can grab it.
- Use a Tracking and Data Wiping App or Service – If you do lose your device or if it is stolen, a tracking application may help you to find and recover it. In the worst case, you can remotely wipe the device of any sensitive data.
- Backup and Archive – No matter what your travel habits, you should regularly backup and archive your files to the cloud or separate storage. If you lose a device, if your device or data are compromised, or if you are infected by ransomware, those files may be a lifesaver.
- Minimize Idle Lockout Time – Keep your device’s idle time to a minimum to help make sure a lost of stolen phone or laptop isn’t in active session for the criminal or curious.
- Public Computer Use – Using public computers is fine just as long as you don’t use personal logins or share sensitive information. Your Facebook and checking account can wait.
- Guard Your Screen – When using a laptop or other large screened device in public, be on guard for shoulder surfers trying to peek at what’s in view and minimize the use of any sensitive information.