How To Ensure Privacy and Online Security Away from Home

Planning to go away for a couple of weeks? You could be telling yourself that you will switch off everything and enjoy every moment of your well-deserved break. No keeping tabs on what is going on at work, no reading emails and no going online — basically, no Internet. But is that possible anymore? Technology has made it almost impossible to ‘go dark’.

If you are tenacious enough, you may keep off the Wi-Fi on the plane, car and hotel. However, what if the only way to access important services in your destination is through the Internet?

That is why your biggest concern on the road should be online security when you access the Internet.

How To Ensure Privacy and Online Security Away from Home

Here are some priceless privacy and cybersecurity tips that if followed, can keep you safe from hackers.

Lock Your Device

No one wants to lose their devices but thousands still lose them every day. As a traveler, you can lose your devices to theft or forget them at the airport, in a bar, at a restaurant, or in a cab. In the event that your devices fall into the wrong hands, you wouldn’t want them to have access to your confidential information.

As a precaution, secure all your devices with passwords and set them to auto-lock after a minute or two of inactivity. Use complex passwords to multiply the number of times a hacker will have to try to crack them. Lastly, encrypt the data on your phone. Data encryption can be effected in both Android and iOS devices.

Secure your devices with two-step verification   

Since vulnerability to cyber-attacks increases as you venture into unfamiliar territory, the wise thing to do is to beef up your online security.

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One way to do that is to implement a two-step verification protocol on all accounts that offer the service. To log into an account secured by the two-step verification feature, an additional security code is required after the password has been entered. This code is normally sent to your phone via a text message or an email. In the event that your passwords are stolen, a hacker will still not be able to access your accounts.

Update the operating systems of your devices

If your devices are still running on old operating systems, there is no better time to upgrade to the latest versions than before you hit the road. The latest versions have important security updates against known bugs and threats developed after the last version.

Out-of-date operating systems have no such security features and can be hacked especially if you use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to access the internet.

Use public Wi-Fi with caution

Public Wi-Fi networks are not as safe as most people think. Even if the Wi-Fi routers have firewalls against external threats, a hacker connected to the same network may be actively monitoring your online activity and trying to steal your password.

Another trick that hackers use is to set up a Wi-Fi network using a seemingly legitimate network name to bait unsuspecting users and spy on their personal information.

The safest way to access the internet away from home is via cell phone network data. If you are planning to stay in your destination country for a while, you can easily acquire a prepaid SIM card and use it to buy data.

Alternatively, use VPN software or your company’s VPN to access public Wi-Fi.

Exercise caution if forced to use public computers and ATMs

If you are travelling to a place that you have never been before, you must be open to the possibility that the only way to access the Internet may be via a public computer in an Internet café. Under such circumstances, as a rule of thumb, try not to log into any of your personal accounts. There is no way to assess or tell the extent and the nature of the threat that you will be exposing yourself to.

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Suppose you access your personal accounts on a public account, cover your tracks by deleting all cookies and browser history before you leave.

ATMs are also targeted by crooks who insert card readers to skim the credit card numbers of innocent victims. If possible, carry cash to avoid the need to use ATMs in unfamiliar places. If you have to use an ATM, wiggle your card before you fully insert it. The movement created will loosen any attached card skimmer and thereby save you from a potential scam.

Only log into sites with SSL protection

E-commerce is taking over the world and chances are, as a traveler, you may have to carry out an online financial transaction to access some services. It could be buying some tickets or booking a hotel room.

Keying in personal information to an unfamiliar website without finding out whether it is secure and trustworthy is the easiest way to become a victim of cyber-crime.

How do you identify a secure website? Secure websites use SSL Certificates to encrypt and hide a user’s information from unauthorized parties. To identify an SSL-secured site, look out for any of the following features: a padlock icon to the left of the browser address bar, an “Https://” rather than an “Http://” URL protocol, or a green browser address bar.

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Another way to ensure the website you are accessing belongs to an authorized and reliable company through browser green address bar. The green address bar obtained through Extended Validation Certificate, obtain through verifying their business address from trusted certificate authority. Once the verification is complete their business name will display in browser green address bar.

Due to rising number of cases of fraud, robbery and homicide in Chicago resulting from sales, most of which are initiated on online platforms and concluded in person, carry out all online financial transactions on websites with buyer protection policies such as eBay or PayPal.  That way, you can recover your money if there is something wrong with the package or, for whatever reason, the package does not reach you. For a one-on-one transaction, meet in a familiar and public place, preferably in the lobby of a police department. If possible, tag a friend along. Lastly, do not accept personal checks, it may be fraudulent. Insist on cash.

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