Prior to going on a travel adventure, we’re constantly told to guard our personal belongings with a watchful eye and never let our guard down. The fear of pickpockets rifling through our bags and stealing money, passports, and other valuables is fear enough to let this message embed itself into our brands. So, why is it that a majority of us are unconcerned with the prevalent risk of cybercriminals in this same way?
Experts agree that taking precautions to protect your personal information should be considered a high priority during both online bookings and during the trip. As cybercriminals become smarter, the fear of viruses, scams and identity theft becomes increasingly more common. Making adjustments to protect yourself and your devices will help reduce your risk of falling victim to one of these cyber attacks while on the go.
Online Booking Scams
In today’s world, travel adventures, whether for work or vacation, have become easier to plan and book with the help of the Internet. Though this convenience is often accompanied by risks. Be cautious of the travel site you are using to book your trip by taking the following precautions:
Millions of travel reservations are made on bogus third-party sites each year, costing travelers a great deal of financial loss. These sites often look quite realistic or may even trick you into thinking you are on a reputable booking travel site you know well. However, something will usually be off such as a misspelled word in the URL or an illegitimate feel to the design of the website.
To protect yourself from the start, ensure that the URL of the website that you are visiting begins with “HTTPS”. The “S” in this stands for secure and signifies that the data on the site is encrypted. Be sure to also check for a padlock icon near the URL that will signify the site is safe to enter financial information on. If you are using a third party site for your booking needs and are unsure whether or not it is a well known and reputable site, check with the Better Business Bureau’s website. They have an ongoing record of every secured site.
Similarly, if you receive an email from a travel company featuring a can’t miss deal, think twice before opening. These deals may seem too good to refuse because they likely are. If you want to take part in these deals; go straight to the website itself to check if it is actually an ongoing deal. Clicking on one of these links in a fake email could be a phishing attack; that tricks individuals into handing over personal or financial information.
Using Credit Cards
Always book with a credit card over a debit card. Should your financial information become breached, it is easier to recover any losses on your credit card as it does not provide a direct link to your bank account. This means that transactions can be stopped from being completed if necessary. Many of the major card companies also offer fraud prevention services. By using a credit card, you are not only being safer but are also increasing your potential to accrue travel points and face a lower number of international fees.
After you make any online reservations, always call the hotel, venue, airline or resort afterward to confirm directly. If are not able to find a record of your reservation, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. This will allow you enough time to alert your credit card company, report the fraud, and still have time to book other reservations securely.
Using Public Wifi
Unfortunately, the concerns with data privacy don’t stop after securing your reservations. When travelers are away, they are at a higher likelihood of connecting to unsecured wireless networks than they would be at home, putting them at higher risk of a cyber attack. Though these risks can be entirely avoided by leaving your devices at home, it’s not always possible to do so in today’s digital world. If you do choose to bring your electronic devices with you, secure yourself by preparing them before traveling and educating yourself on best practices.
An important first step to take is to check your security settings on your device. Turn off any settings that automatically connect to any available wifi in the area as well as all bluetooth settings. Change your passwords that are currently enabled for sites your visit frequently before you travel. You can change these back when you return home; but having a new and stronger password set up will be your first line of defense in a data breach.
Consider downloading a Virtual Private Network – VPN for use on public wifi. This will encrypt your data leaving you with a private network to freely explore the web on; without risk of a criminal spying on your activity. Finally, make sure to update all of your apps. Though you may typically ignore the notification to update your applications; software updates are usually released due to a vulnerability in security being detected and remedied.
When logging into a shared internet whether at a hotel, coffee shop, etc; ask an employee for their wireless network credentials to verify security; and make sure that you are on the correct network. If there is no password set up, you will need to be much more cautious of your surroundings. These areas can be a cybercriminal’s favorite place to hang out.
Cybercriminals will use technology that makes it easy for them to hack into your device and monitor your activity. During this time, avoid websites that have your credentials stored on them such as financial institutions or transactional sites as much as possible.
Whether you’re planning your next trip or gearing up for an already planned adventure; take a moment to stop and ask yourself, “what can I do to protect myself against a cyber attack and cybercriminals?”