How to make cyber security the least stressful part of travelling

As exciting as travelling can be, planning a trip can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. Deciding how to travel, where to stay and what to pack can feel like a never-ending to-do list. While you may not think of cyber security as a travel essential, protecting yourself and your devices while travelling is just as important as packing your passport for an out-of-country visit. Here are tips to make cyber security the least stressful part of travelling.

a person with a camera and a suitcase looks at their phone

Preparing your devices before take-off

Some might say that packing a personal device is as important as packing an extra pair of socks. Our devices allow us to take photos and videos, make phone calls and keep up with our favourite television series. Once you decide which devices to bring on your travels, start by getting them vacation ready.

Download content from your preferred streaming service that you plan to watch during your travels. Not only can you rest assured that you are downloading on a secure network (it is your home Wi-Fi after all), you won’t use any of your cellular data and you won’t incur roaming charges.

Lock your device with a password, PIN, or biometrics, and enable automatic backups to a cloud service. Ensure that your accounts and devices are protected with strong and unique passwords and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA), where available. Adding these extra layers of protection to your devices will make it difficult to access your devices should they get lost or stolen.

Finally, to protect yourself from other, equally frustrating mishaps, activate authentication or password protection on your app store so that younger travellers do not “accidentally” make surprise purchases on your accounts while using your devices. You might also consider using waterproof bags for phones and tablets if you’re planning on using them around water. You don’t want to be searching an unfamiliar city for bags of rice – not that we recommend that method!

When in roam

Roaming charges can be a considerable added travel expense. To save on these fees, consider buying a local SIM card from a reputable provider in the place you’re travelling to. Do your research ahead of time to determine if a local SIM card would give you a better deal than roaming fees, and to ensure which providers are the most commonly used in your destination. For this to work, your device cannot be locked to one provider. In Canada, all phones sold since December 2017 should already be unlocked. Older devices can be unlocked by your provider at no cost to you. Contact your wireless provider for more information about unlocking your phone. Keep in mind that a new SIM card will change your phone number, and you will not have access to any contact information saved on your regular SIM card.

You might want to connect to a public Wi-Fi network during your travels. Between coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and public transportation, Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere (unless you’re travelling off-grid, to remote locations). But anyone can connect to public Wi-Fi, including cyber criminals. Be cautious when connecting your devices using public networks. Make sure to:

  • turn off Wi-Fi when you don’t need to connect to the internet, so your devices don’t accidentally connect to unsecure public networks
  • enable firewalls to help control who can access your devices
  • browse securely by ensuring that you’re only visiting secure sights (look for HTTPS or a lock icon next to the URL)
  • clear your browser (history, caches, cookies, and temporary internet files) after accessing anything that includes your sensitive information (personal details, credit card transactions, banking information)
  • disable the “remember me” features on websites and devices
  • never use public Wi-Fi to access sensitive information, like online banking or shopping

When possible, use a virtual private network (VPN) and personal cellular service instead of using public Wi-Fi. A VPN is particularly helpful when traveling since it further protects the information your send over the internet.

Always keep your device accessories such as chargers and headphones (known as peripherals for devices) close by and do not use device chargers or other peripherals from unknown sources. Plugging in a charger, headphones and other peripherals can introduce malware into your devices.

After your return home

As tempting as it may be to post a photo of this morning’s mountain-top sunrise, consider waiting to post any photos of your trip until you return home. Announcing your trip on social media before leaving or posting photos during your trip can signal to potential thieves that you’re not home.

Lastly, if you had the misfortune of losing your device or having it stolen during your trip, make sure to change your passphrases and passwords on accounts that were used during travel when you return.

Conclusion

Make sure that before you leave for your trip, you take a moment to plan your cyber security. Consult the Government of Canada’s tips on Cyber security while travelling. And remember, leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, and make sure you have lots of storage space for all the travel photos you’ll be taking!

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