When we go away for our annual summer holiday, most of us spend some time making sure we leave our house secure. Maybe we ask a neighbour to come over and take care of the mail, open and close the curtains and give the place a once over.
We lock all the doors and windows and maybe even set some house lights on a timer to give the impression that the house remains occupied, but… Are we all so savvy when it comes to keep our digital lives safe when we travel?
Here are a few tips from someone who seems to spend most of his life travelling from somewhere to somewhere else (unfortunately not often on holiday). There are many things that we can and should be doing to limit our exposure when we travel, to prevent our electronics, or our identities, from being stolen and to minimise the damage if the worst should happen.
Before you leave home
Decide which devices you are going to take with you; your laptop? Your iPod? Your smartphone? Make sure you have all the relevant chargers and work out if any of them are duplicates, that’ll save on luggage space. Once you have the definitive list, connect each device to the internet and download and apply any recommended updates.
This can be particularly time consuming for the PC, as you may have to update many different applications as well as the operating system, but not only will it leave you more secure from vulnerabilities, it may save you expensive network costs while travelling.
Secondly make sure every device you are taking with you has a PIN lock or a password enabled, if your device is stolen you should be making it as difficult as possible for the thief to get in. Better still; encrypt any of those portable devices you can, making your data inaccessible to a would-be attacker.
Make a full backup of the devices you are taking with you. That way if a device is lost or stolen (or just plain dies) the only data you will lose will be that data you created while on holiday. Even better, if you can afford the roaming costs or have network connectivity at your destination, consider subscribing to an online synchronisation service to keep those al-important holiday memories safe too.
As a last step consider packing a spare battery or power pack for those juice-hungry smartphones, doubtless you will be using the camera function far more on your travels and the battery will die that much quicker as a result.
When you get there
The temptation to use social media to brag about your wonderful holiday experience as it unfolds may be strong; there is definitely pleasure in bragging rights. However, don’t forget that the details you share on social networks may be shared more widely than you anticipated.
Sharing those photos, checking into locations with GPS or posting details of exactly how long you’ll be enjoying the sun for is like putting a great big neon sign over your house, reading “vacant”. Wait until you get home to brag. Besides, why would you spend your holiday surgically attached to social networks, aren’t you supposed to be enjoying yourself?
If you absolutely must get online while travelling, always try to use cable or 3G connections in preference to wireless, and don’t carry out any sensitive transaction on public computers. Public computers may store traces of your login details (or you might just forget to log out) and public Wi-Fi networks are called public for a reason, your activity is visible to other network users, yes, even on networks that require a password.
When you are not using your gadgets, and won’t be carrying them with you make sure you lock them in the in-room safe, particularly if it one that allows you set your own digital password (don’t use the room number!) If your technology is too bulky, you can always ask the front desk to lock it up for you or invest in a cable lock to keep it tethered to a substantial piece of furniture.
Before you check out
Make sure you pack your stuff up the night before you are due to check out. You’ll be doing it with a clearer head, you’ll be less likely to forget anything and you’ll have time for a more thorough double-check of the room in the morning.
One last tip: laptops and sand, much like iPhones and sun-lotion; they don’t mix. I know!