Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Staying Tech Safe On Vacation

Summertime 2013 tech Tip #4

My summer series of tech tips continues with help on staying safe, digitally (at least) while on vacation.

The reality is many 21st century families want or need to text, check email and update social media accounts, even when the goal of taking a vacation is to take a break from our everyday lives. I struggle with this as well. Every summer vacation at the shore I try to disconnect - but I usually fail to do so. However, would should all be aware that our online activity while on the road can put us at a higher risk of having our identity stolen.

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have a lasting negative impact. Just one important piece of information, like a Social Security card, a driver’s license or a bank account statement, can provide a criminal what he needs to steal someone’s identity. What’s worse is victims may not realize their identities have been stolen for weeks, months or years after the fact, allowing the crime to perpetuate and destroy their credit. The good news is there are actions you can take to help protect your identity while on vacation — and anywhere else you may be mobile and online.

Mobile Routers or Cellular Hotspots
Consider a portable router to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot for your own or your family’s devices. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at most electronic stores or even airport kiosks. This will help you avoid using public Wi-Fi spots.  All cellular companies sell mobile hotspot devices.

Avoid Contact with Hackers
If you use public Wi-Fi, be very cautious of using unsecured networks. Make sure you are logging into a secured or private network when you use Wi-Fi. If you aren’t sure, don’t visit sites that contain sensitive information, like bank accounts.

Be Careful Being Social
Using social media while you travel can be a great way to share your family’s trip but remember — checking in or posting pictures can alert someone that your home is vacant! Make sure to set your home alarm, hire a house-sitter or maybe the best option is to delay posts until you are back home. If you do really want to share these photos while you are on vacation, make sure to set your privacy settings to “friends” only. This will help limit the number of people who actually see these pictures.

Make Sure It's Legit
Before logging onto a website from your mobile device, make sure the URL is legit. There are plenty of URL spoof sites out there, created in order to steal your information. Unfortunately many mobile browsers do not show the URL, so it is best to bookmark your favorite sites after you type in the address.

Lock Down Your Social Networks
If you have a blog or social accounts — such as Facebook and Twitter — use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being leaked onto the internet.

Strong Passwords
Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks to make your passwords harder to crack.

Secure Your Mobile Devices
Losing your mobile phone, tablet or laptop can be just as bad as losing your wallet. Be sure to protect your mobile devices with strong passwords and encryption. Consider installing wiping software on your mobile device so that you can remove your information remotely if your phone is lost.

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